Trudeau urged to review status of Liberal MP after law firm tied to alleged ‘drug boss’
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus and fellow Vancouver-area NDP MPs sent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a letter on Thursday following a Global News investigation that revealed the law firm of Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido brokered a secretive and controversial real estate deal with an alleged organized crime kingpin.
On Tuesday, Global News reported a lawyer at Peschisolido’s former Richmond law firm facilitated a “bare trust” joint venture that involved Kwok Chung Tam — a man who, between 1991 and 2014, was accused by law enforcement officials of being a “brazen” loan shark, heroin importer and alleged “heavyweight” of the Big Circle Boys.
The deal was struck in October 2011 while Tam was still serving a conditional sentence for a 2010 marijuana drug trafficking conviction, court records show. The deal allowed Tam to conceal his ownership stake in a $7.8-million land purchase in Coquitlam, B.C., and, according to financial crime experts, should have raised “huge red flags” about potential money laundering.
Now opposition MPs are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to investigate and to review Peschisolido’s membership in the Liberal caucus.
WATCH: NDP Leader grills Trudeau over ‘bare trust’ real estate deal facilitated by Richmond MP’s law firm
“Real or suspected corruption has real human costs, and your government needs to immediately show Canadians in British Columbia and across the country that you have the courage to fight for them and to deal with this crisis,” wrote Angus and three other Vancouver-area MPs in their letter to Trudeau.
“Mr. Peschisolido clearly owes his constituents a full explanation as soon as possible,” they wrote.
The letter also raised the broader issue of money laundering in B.C. and concerns over links between organized crime and the province’s growing opioid crisis.
“On your part, you should review Mr. Peschisolido’s continued membership in the Liberal caucus,” the letter said.
Peschisolido has denied any knowledge of the 2011 Tam deal and says he has never dealt with Tam in any capacity. He also says he voluntarily chose to wind down his law firm in December 2017.
Tam, meanwhile, has denied any allegations of gang membership.
In a written statement, his lawyer said claims of organized crime and gang involvement have never been proven in court or any immigration hearings.
Despite the many allegations levelled against Tam, he has only been convicted three times. He was convicted for theft under $1,000 in 1992 — for which he received a pardon in 1997 — and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and possession of narcotics in 2010.
Questions about potential money laundering
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pressured Trudeau in the House of Commons on Tuesday about money laundering in B.C. and asked whether he had spoken with Peschisolido about the secretive financial transaction.
Trudeau avoided answering the question directly but insisted his government is fighting money laundering by increasing funding to the RCMP, Fintrac and the Canada Revenue Agency by more than $160 million.
“We are committed to a robust regime to combat money laundering and terrorist financing,” Trudeau said.
WATCH: Conservatives press government on Liberal MP’s law firm being taken over by B.C. Law Society
Peter Kent, the Conservative MP for Thornhill, Ont., asked during Tuesday’s question period whether Peschisolido had ever lobbied members of cabinet on money laundering, bare trust deals, mortgage rules or Fintrac reporting requirements.
Organized Crime Reduction and Border Security Minister Bill Blair responded, saying the government has reversed cuts to the RCMP’s anti-money laundering efforts made by the previous Conservative government and is working with lawyers to “further explore how the legal community can address the issue of legal professionals being used to facilitate money laundering and terrorism.”
Peschisolido denies knowledge of bare trust deal
For his part, Peschisolido maintains he had no knowledge of the 2011 bare trust deal and that all lawyers at his former firm operated “completely independently.”
“I’ve never been involved in a bare trust agreement,” Peschisolido said. “If you were to ask me how it works, I wouldn’t know.”
WATCH: Liberal MP says he has no knowledge of ‘bare trust’ real estate deal facilitated for alleged ‘drug boss’
“During my time with Peschisolido and Associates, I was not involved in any ‘bare trust’ real estate deals and did not deal with Mr. Kwok Chung Tam in any capacity,” he said in a statement released Tuesday. “The lawyers who were at Peschisolido and Associates were there as independent contractors and oversaw and managed their own files independently.”
Peschisolido also said he voluntarily chose to “wind down” his law firm to dedicate his time and efforts to serving his constituents.
“While practicing [sic], I conducted myself at all times with professionalism and integrity and always followed all Law Society rules and guidelines. I fully support our Government’s significant efforts to combat money laundering in all its forms, including in the real estate sector, and the steps taken to strengthen beneficial ownership transparency by ensuring that corporations maintain this information in their records,” he said.
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