Quebec-style inquiry on B.C. realty money laundering only way to get truth: lawyer

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Criminal cashflow expert and Attorney-General weigh in on B.C. investigation into into housing-crime links

David Eby, NDP MLA for Vancouver Point Grey and B.C.’sAttorney-General.
David Eby, NDP MLA for Vancouver Point Grey and B.C.’sAttorney-General.  (JENNIFER GAUTHIER / FOR STARMETRO)

VANCOUVER—One of Canada’s top international anti-money laundering experts says B.C.’s promised report on whether gangsters are funneling crime cash through local real estate will likely fail to discover the full extent of the current “crisis.”

That’s because the province’s consultant tasked with investigating the allegations, former civil servant Peter German, won’t be able to pry secret corporate records from law firms.

Lawyer-client privilege means that real estate transaction data will stay secret without a court order, according to lawyer Christine Duhaime, afinancial crime and anti-money laundering specialist with law offices in Toronto and Vancouver.

“In the real estate sector, many of the transactions are done through numbered companies or trusts,” she told StarMetro in a phone interview. “You’re not talking about a human person any more.”

German has delivered his first report to Attorney General David Eby with 48 recommendations on laundering in B.C. casinos, Eby told StarMetro.

But B.C. hasn’t released the report publicly yet as promised because it’s being vetted by law enforcement agencies to ensure it won’t “compromise any law enforcement investigations or release anyone’s personal information,” he said in an earlier phone interview. “Once that’s complete we’ll get that report out as soon as possible.”

Now German will turn his sights on possible laundering in the realty sector for a second phase of his investigation.

Eby said “the evidence is quite clear there are international connections” between housing, drug trafficking, and international crime.