British Columbia report pegs $5.5 billion laundered in 2018, housing in focus

FILE PHOTO - Rooftops of houses and the downtown core are seen in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada January 7, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

TORONTO (Reuters) - British Columbia’s housing market was the primary vehicle used to launder C$7.4 billion ($5.5 billion) through the Canadian province in 2018, according to report commissioned by the provincial government released on Thursday.

Money laundering contributed to crime and drug trafficking of opiates, and reduced tax revenues and damaged the reputations and stability of professions and institutions, the report said.

The panel set by the provincial government that analyzed the extent of money laundering and its impacts called its estimate “conservative.” The panel started its work in September 2018.

The panel found that the housing market accounted for more than two-thirds of the total in money laundering.

“Our housing market should be used for housing people, not for laundering the proceeds of crime, Carole James, British Columbia’s minister of finance, said in a statement. “The amount of money being laundered in B.C. and through real estate is much more than anyone predicted.”

The report pegged money laundering in all of Canada at C$47 billion in 2018.

The report lays out 29 recommendations for correcting the problem, such as a Land Owner Transparency registry, strengthening federal regulations, and creating a public data sharing network for anti-money laundering agencies.

Reporting by Tyler Choi; Editing by Leslie Adler