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B.C. government expected to decide on money laundering public inquiry next Wednesday

Pressure rising to address money laundering in Canada
WATCH: The British Columbia government's reports on money laundering is shining the light on how deep the issue runs throughout Canada, and how the lack of solid regulations could be fuelling the problem. David Akin explains.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says his cabinet will have a decision on whether there should be a public inquiry into money laundering following next Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

The cabinet is in the midst of reviewing a pair of reports that found more than $7 billion was laundered though British Columbia last year, including an estimated $5 billion through the housing market.

“I think the public wants to see consequences to this behaviour, criminal behaviour, that is distorting prices and having a impact on families in this province,” Horgan said.

“I will have more to say on this after cabinet has deliberated next week.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s blood money’: Calls for inquiry mount as report reveals $7.4B laundered in B.C. last year

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West and Vancouver Coun. Christine Boyle have been leading the push for an inquiry.

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The B.C. government has been reluctant to call an inquiry over concerns that it will not solve the problem of money laundering in B.C.’s housing market, casinos and luxury car market.

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Horgan insists the government’s priority is prosecutions for the criminals involved. The premier has also been highly critical of the federal government and law enforcement for dropping the ball on the money laundering file.

But the B.C. premier did offer a clue about a possible inquiry when discussing the former government. The NDP has been asking for cabinet documents from the B.C. Liberal government around what decisions were made around money laundering and whether it was enough.

Horgan says a public inquiry could ensure those documents are made public.

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“We asked to have any of the information they had produced and they refused to do so,” Horgan said.

“The decisions of the former government are sealed for a period of time and the new government does not have access. I believe the public should be able to see what the former government knew and when they knew it. An inquiry would insist in getting that information.”

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Appearing on Focus BC, Attorney General David Eby said the two German Reports provide a road map for law enforcement to crack down on money laundering. But he is still concerned about a lack of federal resources, including the lack of a dedicated investigation team and no federal policing of B.C. ports.

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“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of leads for law enforcement here if there were a dedicated law enforcement team on this, which there isn’t,” Eby said.

“The public inquiry really is about public accountability for who knew what when, what decisions could have been made earlier, and was there any corruption really in deciding not to take action.”

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Government response to money laundering report
Government response to money laundering report

The B.C. Liberals are not in support of a public inquiry. Leader Andrew Wilkinson wants to see the government focus on prosecutions.

The province says there is the possibility of doing both at the same time.

“A public inquiry would certainly be an answer to the chronology of how we got here,” Eby said.

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“I don’t think a public inquiry is going to be the answer to stopping it. That’s around policing and little changes that we have a very good road map for here and that we’re already implementing.”