B.C. money laundering seizure fails, while poll says dirty cash is a national problem

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Three-quarters of Canadians believe money laundering is a problem in the province where they live, according to an Angus Reid poll. That number rises to 90 per cent in British Columbia, a province beset by problems related to the RCMP’s ill-fated E-Pirate money-laundering investigation.

The pollster Angus Reid says that 81 per cent believe on a national level, Canada must do more to tackle money laundering. And most Canadians believe dirty cash is a problem that’s getting worse. In British Columbia, which has launched a public inquiry into money laundering, 90 per cent said it is a problem.

Across Canada, 70 per cent believe their own province should hold an inquiry into money laundering. In Ontario, the number was 78 per cent, followed by Quebec at 74 per cent, and Alberta at 67 per cent.

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The pollster notes that a recent expert panel in British Columbia found $50 billion could be laundered across Canada per year, and that a report from C.D. Howe Institute estimated the total could be over $100 billion.

British Columbia has been beset by problems related to the RCMP’s E-Pirate investigation, Canada’s largest-ever money laundering probe targeting an alleged underground bank in Richmond, B.C., and a casino and real estate money laundering network.

The underground bankers were allegedly laundering about $1 billion per year for Chinese gangs as well as Mexican cartels, Middle Eastern gangs, and domestic drug traffickers.

Criminal charges in the E-Pirate probe were stayed because of a procedural error in the court case.

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And now, $2 million in cash that the B.C. Civil Forfeiture office attempted to seize from suspects in the alleged underground bank must be returned to the accused, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled. The Civil Forfeiture office had sought an urgent freezing order on the $2 million in cash, arguing that the accused would make the money “vanish.”

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The cash was frozen as the case proceeded. But the accused argued the case violated Charter rights. Last week, a judge found that the Civil Forfeiture office did not make a fair legal argument, meaning the cash will be returned.

“I conclude that it is clearly not in the interests of justice to grant,” a continuing freezing order on the cash, “on the basis of the material non-disclosure I have described,” the judge ruled.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Sun has reported that one of the accused in the case used a numbered company to secretly sell the $2-million home that the Civil Forfeiture office is attempting to seize as proceeds of crime to another employee at the alleged underground bank.

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“(The accused) deliberately attempted to evade the terms of the (interim freeze order) by hiding the fact that the purchaser was not at arm’s length,” Civil Forfeiture office filings said, according to the Vancouver Sun.

The poll said that while the 2019 federal budget offered several anti-money laundering measures and $200 million in funding over five years to help police and tax investigators, 47 per cent are dissatisfied with the government’s efforts to combat money laundering.

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And pollster Angus Reid said that the bombshell case of alleged RCMP mole Cameron Ortis has refocused national attention on Canada’s role in international money laundering networks.

Global News revealed that Ortis was investigated in connection with the international probe of Richmond, B.C., man Vincent Ramos, who was selling encrypted phones to transnational cartels so they could evade police while trafficking drugs, laundering money, and committing murders.

The poll was conducted in an online survey from July 30 to Aug. 6, 2019, among a representative sample of 1,524 Canadian adults. Angus Reid says “a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.”

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