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Following a series of reports detailing the scale of money laundering activity in British Columbia, the provincial government is planning a public inquiry into the problem.

The government announced today, May 15, that it has appointed B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen to lead an inquiry that will examine the province’s money laundering problem, including the role of financial institutions, the corporate and professional sectors, and the real estate and gaming industries.

The Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering, which will have the power to compel testimony, will also examine various regulators, and possible barriers to effective law enforcement.

“This inquiry will bring answers about who knew what when and who is profiting from money laundering in our province,” said David Eby, B.C.’s attorney general.

“The Honourable Justice Cullen will have the mandate, authority and resources to seek answers, perhaps most importantly among people and organizations who refuse to share what they know unless legally compelled to do so,” he added.

The commission is to deliver an interim report within 18 months, and a final report by May 2021.

The government said its decision to launch an inquiry stems from “three independent reviews that found extraordinary levels of money laundering in B.C.’s real estate market and other sectors of the economy.”

Those reports detail, among other things, the impact of these crimes on B.C.’s economy and its housing markets.

One report estimates that money laundering topped $7 billion in B.C. in 2018, and that it boosted home prices by about 5% overall — possibly more than 20% in markets such as Vancouver.

“People are understandably shocked and upset about money laundering, and it’s not right that homeowners and renters are carrying the costs of crime,” said Carole James, B.C.’s minister of finance.

“We’ve already taken action to make our real estate market more fair and transparent,” she said. “Moving forward with this public inquiry reinforces our commitment to stamp dirty money out of our province and out of people’s lives.”