As the much anticipated public inquiry into money laundering in B.C. kicks off, Attorney General David Eby says the BC Liberals shouldn’t pick and choose what documents Commissioner Austin Cullen has access to.
In a press conference Monday morning, Eby expressed his concern over former finance minister and current MLA Mike de Jong’s role in passing on the cabinet documents to the inquiry.
De Jong has been designated as the official point person for the previous government on how to deal with confidential information.
The public service contacted de Jong to ask whether they could send the information directly to the inquiry and the Liberal MLA would not sign off on that request, Eby said.
“My expectation, and I think the expectation of all British Columbians, is that the BC Liberals would instruct the public service to disclose, without qualification, without censorship, the entire package of relevant information on money laundering,” Eby said.
“He has written a letter to government asking that he be the one, instead of the public service, to determine which cabinet documents the inquiry requires “to discharge its responsibilities.”
The money laundering public inquiry is expected to be politically charged. The decisions being made by Commissioner Cullen are independent from government, but the final report is expected to be delivered just five months before the next scheduled provincial election.
Eby has been persistent in his request for the BC Liberals to provide access to confidential cabinet documents. In January, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson told CKNW host Lynda Steele that his party would cooperate.
“We have sent the request into the department of the Attorney General,” Wilkinson said in January. “We expect that to be ready for the Cullen Inquiry when it starts in February.”
Cullen has the power to subpoena any documents he believes are necessary for the commission. But voluntary disclosure would save money and express a sense of urgency.
The inquiry is expected to investigate widespread money laundering in the housing market, luxury car market and casinos.
Eby says de Jong is in “conflict of interest” considering he served as attorney general, solicitor general and later finance minister while money laundering was allegedly taking place.
“MLA de Jong is perhaps the last person on earth that should be taking on this task,” Eby said.
“It is highly likely that Mike de Jong had detailed, personal information of the money laundering scandal our province was facing. And when he was minister of gaming and finance minister he either kept all of this secret or was so bad at his job that he had no idea any of this was happening.”
The inquiry is hearing opening statements this week from those who have been provided standing. No politicians or former politicians will be part of this process.
But the expectation is politicians will eventually be named to testify as witnesses.
Eby said the decisions on who will appear at the inquiry will be made independently, but he has made a list of people he hopes will appear, including de Jong.
“I have my own list of people I believe should and could be testifying,” Eby said.
“Christy Clark, Mike de Jong, Rich Coleman, I think they should be glad I am not the commissioner.”