Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the inquiry into money laundering in B.C. in Vancouver, on Monday, February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Money laundering has warped economy and fuelled opioid crisis, B.C. tells inquiry

Inquiry begins into laundering activity in casinos, horse racing, real estate and luxury car markets

The B.C. government says money laundering has distorted the economy, fuelled the opioid crisis and overheated the real estate market as a provincial inquiry into the criminal activity began Monday.

Jacqueline Hughes, a lawyer for the province, says the past cannot be undone but the government can take steps to make B.C. the most difficult jurisdiction to launder money.

B.C.’s NDP government called the independent inquiry last year after three reports revealed that casinos and horse racing as well as the real estate and luxury car markets had become laundromats for the proceeds of crime.

Commissioner Austin Cullen is hearing opening remarks this week, with Hughes the first to speak on behalf of the province’s Finance Ministry and gaming policy enforcement branch.

Hughes says B.C. has earned an international reputation as a haven for money laundering and the public deserves to know if there was wilful blindness to what was going on.

READ MORE: RCMP has ‘no’ dedicated money laundering investigators in B.C.

She says the government has taken steps including creating a beneficial ownership registry to try and block those buying real estate from hiding behind numbered companies, but it is looking forward to the inquiry’s recommendations.

The Canadian Press

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