Any public inquiry into B.C.’s money laundering activity should have definite targets and timelines lest the investigation meander into impotence, a former provincial attorney general has warned.
“A lot of good things can come of [probes], but before governments establish inquiries, they should first of all ask themselves: What questions need to be answered? Did something go wrong? And what are the powers that we're going to give to an inquiry commissioner?” Wally Oppal said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“The other thing is you have to have a definite end line, otherwise it can go on forever.”
The provincial government released two exhaustive reports on money laundering last week, with the most significant results from the expert panel led by former B.C. deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney indicating that last year alone, an estimated $7.4 billion illicitly entered the province.
A vast majority (approximately $5 billion) of that sum was allegedly smuggled through real estate, and was considered responsible for a 5% increase in home prices in 2018.
According to Attorney General David Eby, these results highlighted the seriousness of the long-running issue, which the federal government has not properly addressed until recently.
“Wealthy criminals and those attempting to evade taxes have had the run of our province for too long, to the point that they are now distorting our economy, hurting families looking for housing, and impacting those who have lost loved ones due to the opioid overdose [crisis],” Eby stated.
Some quarters have called for any future inquiry to take inspiration from the successful probe by Quebec’s Charbonneau Commission, which looked at rampant corruption in public construction contracts. The investigation yielded sufficient material for arrests, convictions, and the recovery of $95 million in public funds.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver argued that an inquiry will lead to names being named and witnesses obliged to testify. Also, improved transparency involving otherwise classified information can help refine recommendations for further action.
Port Coquitlam mayor Brad West added that governments should take decisive action on the entry of “blood money” owned by criminal elements involved in the opioid crisis.
“We should just stop pretending that we’re ever going to have public inquiries, if we don’t have one into something that is as important and as consequential to the future of our province as this,” West said.