Making it easier to track dirty money and giving more power to regulators to investigate suspicious financial transactions was the focus of a public meeting into money laundering held in Kelowna on Tuesday night.
The meeting is part of a series of public forums being held across British Columbia to gather preliminary information about money laundering as part of the provincial government’s Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering.
While many Kelowna residents said they were hesitant to speak in front of the media during the meeting, Commissioner Austin Cullen and senior commission counsel Patrick McGowan heard from at least three presenters who voiced their concerns and thoughts on the issue.
Murda Park, a former manager of a real estate company, said the current process of tracking large transactions for home purchases makes it almost impossible for industry professionals to know where the money is coming from.
“During my time as a managing broker, when we received a certified cheque or money order, we were supposed to keep a record of their money order and get their bank account number to track the purchase. People would never give us their bank account number, that’s completely unrealistic.”
“That’s holding us to a higher standing than the banks. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
During financial audits, Park also said there should be one standard audit form used by the Canadian Real Estate Association across the country for real estate professionals to help make tracking money easier.
Kelowna Resident Christopher Burke said institutions need to be held more accountable when they’re dealing with shady financial transactions.
“I’ve seen a lot of different financial crime go on being a part of a couple different start-ups,” he said.
“In respect to dirty money laundering, one of the issues to me is the inability of the BC Securities Commission to act, especially around the confines of the rule of law.”
A Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia is underway at the Best Western Plus in Kelowna.
Commissioner Austin Cullen and Senior Commission Counsel Patrick McGowan are attending the meeting to hear people's concerns on the topic. pic.twitter.com/xjN72KDFhM
— Connor Trembley (@ConnorTrembley) October 30, 2019
Burke used banks as an example where the securities commission could investigate if issues about money laundering arose.
In terms of the investigation process, McGowan said the public meetings are just one tool being used by the commission to investigate the practice of laundering money in the province.
“It is a very challenging issue to tackle, partly because there’s so much that takes place in the shadows and in areas that are difficult to detect,” he said.
“We’ve been given an expansive mandate and we’ve been given the powers to tackle these issues , which includes the ability to compel witnesses and compel the production of documents.”
After the public meetings in B.C. are finished, evidence-based hearings will occur later next year before a final commissioner’s report is released in May 2021 with detailed findings and recommendations.