The Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia (the “Commission”), led by Commissioner Austin Cullen, was established by the provincial government pursuant to the Public Inquiry Act on May 19, 2019. The Commission was established following the provincial government’s commissioning of four reports dealing with money laundering in BC:
- Dirty Money: An Independent Review of Money Laundering in Lower Mainland Casinos Conducted for the Attorney General of British Columbia , Peter M. German, Q.C., March 31, 2018;
- Dirty Money – Part 2: Turning the Tide – An Independent Review of Money Laundering in B.C. Real Estate, Luxury Vehicle Sales & Horse Racing, Peter M. German, Q.C., March 31, 2019;
- Real Estate Regulatory Structure Review, Dan Perrin, 2018; and
- Combatting Money Laundering in BC Real Estate, Maureen Maloney, Tsur Somerville and Brigitte Unger, March 31, 2019.
(collectively, the “Reports”)
The Commission’s mandate is broad, but is generally tasked with conducting hearings and making findings of fact respecting money laundering in British Columbia, including:
- the extent, growth, evolution and methods of money laundering in British Columbia, with regard to specific economic sectors;
- the acts or omissions of responsible regulatory agencies and individuals, and whether those have contributed to money laundering in the province or amount to corruption;
- the scope and effectiveness of the anti-money laundering powers, duties and functions of these regulatory agencies and individuals; and
- the barriers to effective law enforcement in relation to money laundering.
The Commission is set to deliver an interim report to the provincial government in November of 2020 and a final report in May 2021.
In October and November of 2019, the Commission completed public consultation hearings in five cities across the province to gather insights from the public with respect to money laundering concerns in the province. In late February 2020, Commission hearings began with opening statements from those parties who had been granted participant standing in the process. Given the broad mandate of the Commission and the potential sectors, industries and professions affected by money laundering – particular those referenced in the Reports – there is a wide variety of participants.
The next two scheduled sets of hearings are currently set for May-June 2020 and September-December 2020. The first will focus on an introduction and exploration of money laundering issues, including the difficult issue of quantifying the extent of money laundering and conducting a review of money laundering perceptions and legislation in jurisdictions outside of British Columbia and Canada more generally. The second set of hearings will narrow the focus to assessing the acts and omissions of individuals or agencies that may have contributed to money laundering in the province.
The COVID-19 global pandemic may force modifications to the Commission’s currently scheduled timeline. In a statement released April 16, 2020, Commissioner Cullen noted that Commission staff are assessing alternatives to the in-person hearings scheduled to begin May 25. Commissioner Cullen stated that the hearings would only proceed via videoconferencing technology if witnesses, participants, and Commission staff could be connected in a way that approximates a conventional hearing, and that public access to the hearings must be maintained.
Further updates regarding the scheduled May hearings will be released on the Commission’s website.
 Owen Bird lawyers Christopher Weafer and Patrick Weafer represent the British Columbia Real Estate Association, an industry organization granted participant standing in the Commission’s proceedings.