Ottawa is strengthening its anti-money laundering regime by spending an extra $29-million each year to fund the RCMP and the country’s financial intelligence watchdog as well as create a new expert task force to identify threats and loopholes.
Tuesday’s budget outlined a raft of other changes aimed at cracking down on money laundering, a crime that has caused public outrage over the past year as details about specific cases have emerged pointing to billions in ill-gotten gains being washed through B.C.’s gambling and real estate sectors. The budget also earmarked $50-million over the next five years for the Canada Revenue Agency to create four new residential and commercial real estate teams to audit “high-risk regions” in B.C. and Ontario.
British Columbia’s Attorney-General David Eby welcomed the new federal funding and resources, for which he has been pushing for months, noting he was pleased to see the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FinTRAC) commit to using some of the new money to fund more outreach and examinations of real estate firms and casinos in his province.
"It felt like for a long time that we were shouting into a canyon and finally we’ve heard something back instead of an echo, which is great,” he said Tuesday after the federal budget was released.
Mr. Eby, who is expecting an independent review into the province’s real estate sector to be completed within the next month, said the review he commissioned last year into money laundering in his province’s real estate sector showed police didn’t have enough resources to properly investigate and FinTRAC was hamstrung in sharing much of the intelligence it gathers from the various sectors reporting suspicious transactions.
“FinTRAC, for example, has a huge amount of data that would be useful to the provincial government and they don’t share their intelligence reports with us,” he said. “They don’t share their analysis and we certainly don’t have access to the reports that they’re collecting.”
Mr. Eby said perhaps one of the biggest improvements outlined in the budget is the proposal to change the Criminal Code so that police don’t have to prove where the money came from when someone, for example, is caught “walking a crate of $20 bills into a casino.” The change would mean couriers for such cash could also be charged with money laundering as long as police prove they had to have known the money was highly suspicious, said Mr. Eby, a former civil-rights lawyer.
Denis Meunier, an anti-money laundering consultant and deputy director of financial intelligence at FinTRAC from 2008 to 2011, said the extra funding for the agency will help it better fulfill its mandate and the shift to better fund the RCMP’s ability to investigate such financial crime is long overdue. He added the federal government made it easier for the CRA and law-enforcement agencies to demand a business divulge the identity of its true – or beneficial – owner but didn’t go far enough and create a public registry to track this phenomenon.
“All businesses – not just the cops and the tax authorities and the financial institutions – but all businesses should know who they’re doing business with and they should be able to look into a free, publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry,” said Mr. Meunier, who also serves as a senior adviser to Transparency International Canada.