Summer reading for elected officials on vacation


Former Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen wrote a money laundering report

Nathalie Collard

Nathalie Collard
The press

Canada’s Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland and her Quebec counterpart Eric Girard should add a title to their summer reading list: the Cullen report on money laundering, released in British Columbia last Wednesday.

Posted at 5:00 am

You won’t be stupid if you bother to read this 1800+ page building block. It is the culmination of three years of work by a commission of inquiry led by former Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen, which has met for 133 days and heard 199 witnesses. Money laundering is so serious in British Columbia that the so-called “Vancouver model” is used to describe the scheme used by criminal organizations that launder money from the sale of fentanyl, such as in casinos and the purchase of real estate . Multi-billion dollar transactions over the last 10 years.

In addition to gambling and real estate, the report highlights financial institutions, business and luxury goods. The problem is not limited to British Columbia.

All of Canada is considered a paradise for organizations looking to turn the fruits of crime into clean money, and Quebec has its own horror stories.

In a previous editorial, we recommended a national survey to fully understand the problem.

In his awaited report, Judge Cullen rightly mentions the federal government’s inaction in this area. Due to a lack of resources, the RCMP has not investigated financial crimes since 2012. As for the country’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada (FINTRAC), it is ineffective, notes Judge Cullen.

It therefore relies on measures at state level to combat money laundering. Beginning with the appointment of an anti-money laundering officer and the establishment of its own permanent investigative unit.

After hearing many experts in the field, Judge Cullen also recommends the confiscation of organized crime assets and the requirement for the real estate buyer to provide clear records of the source of their income. These two deterrents would make Canada a little less hospitable to bandits.

In a passage that may be of interest to Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre, Justice Cullen advises being vigilant about the cryptocurrency, which is particularly vulnerable to money laundering.

The judge also recommends better training for lawyers, accountants and advocacy groups in the real estate sector, an attractive sector for criminal organizations, also in Quebec, the program shows detection in March 2020.

Judge Cullen is also inviting British Columbia and other Canadian provinces to participate in the national public beneficial ownership register for federal companies, an initiative announced in the recent Freeland budget. This tool, which should be available in 2023, is a first step in the right direction, but the federal government still needs to do more if it is to effectively tackle money laundering. Beginning with restoring resources for the RCMP to begin investigations again and for FINTRAC to fulfill its mandate of providing relevant financial information to law enforcement agencies.

There’s one ingredient missing to make the Cullen Report entertaining enough to read on the beach thriller Financier signed Michael Lewis: the names of some politicians corrupted by organized crime. Disappointment, at least in British Columbia, to see that nobody is responsible. Judge Cullen points out that some elected officials, including former Prime Minister Christy Clark, knew about the money laundering activities but did little or nothing. However, they did not derive any personal benefit from the situation, writes the judge, who concludes that one cannot therefore speak of corruption.

This comprehensive document provides food for thought for all elected officials in the country, providing a better understanding of how criminal organizations operate. It would be a shame if it collected dust on a library shelf. Money laundering costs us dearly collectively. Doing nothing costs us more.

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