The Cullen Commission inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia began this week as the provincial government seeks a solution to the use of real estate and gambling industries by tax evaders and organized crime gangs.
The British Columbia Real Estate Association made its opening statement to the inquiry and called for greater co-operation between federal and provincial organizations to tackle the problem.
"We are committed to working with government to better understand this issue and address any pre-existing vulnerabilities within our sector," says BCREA CEO Darlene Hyde. "It is our hope that by working collaboratively we can steer a path forward that strengthens consumer protection measures and limits illicit impact on the housing market".
Hyde says that she hopes the inquiry will result in a clear evidence-based assessment of the scale of money laundering in BC real estate.
BCREA has already stated several recommendations:
- Accept only verified funds - For sectors of real estate that are not already required to do so, we recommend that they accept funds only in forms that are verifiable through Canadian financial institutions.
- Mandatory anti-money laundering education - We recommend the introduction of mandatory anti-money laundering education for all real estate professionals subject to the reporting requirements administered by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) to ensure that those professionals are trained in recognizing and reporting suspicious transactions. As a first step, we were pleased to see the Real Estate Council of British Columbia introduce mandatory training for real estate professionals in January. FINTRAC should work with sector organizations, regulators and the provincial government to improve existing resources so that they better reflect real-world situations and improve compliance.
- Smart regulation - We recommend that the federal government amend the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to allow FINTRAC intelligence to be made available to additional regulatory authorities, including the BC Securities Commission and the BC Financial Services Authority. Optimally, the federal and provincial governments, as well as their respective agencies, should coordinate their actions, share information, such as the provincial assignment registry, and create a comprehensive, efficient enforcement regime.
- Ongoing engagement - We recommend governments and regulatory agencies, including FINTRAC, better utilize on-the-ground experience of real estate professionals to develop compliance resources and test policy ideas. This will result in well-crafted, practical regulation and foster a culture of compliance to protect consumers and the economy.
- Timely and transparent reporting - We recommend that FINTRAC implement a framework to identify and report trends on a regular basis and in language that is consistent and understandable to professionals, the public and media. This reporting system should also include consistency in examinations with immediate feedback designed to help industry professionals improve their compliance systems.
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