Editorial: Lip service to money laundering won't wash

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The incessant information is troubling. The issues are complex. The public is clearly calling for clarity. But the provincial government has so far chosen to avoid calling a public inquiry into money laundering in the British Columbian economy.

It has released one major study from former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German and has another one underway under him on money laundering’s impact on real estate, horse racing and luxury vehicles. It also launched an expert panel under Maureen Maloney, the former deputy attorney general, to report by next month on money laundering in real estate.

In the absence of anything clear on the record, the near-term strategy appears to be awaiting these findings before definitively answering the public demand for something even deeper and more profound. There was nothing to hint otherwise in last week’s speech from the throne.

Unquestionably elements of our economy have been distorted and in some cases commanded by the drug trade and other illicit practices through underground banking networks, legal and illegal casinos, money transfer services and asset procurement. Estimates of the B.C. impact range up to 10-figure territory.

True, we have to be careful what we wish for at times. Much as it is tempting to launch the equivalent of Quebec’s Charbonneau Commission probe of the construction industry, an effective inquiry would take time and money to unfurl the origins, operations and consequences of systematic fraud in our economy. Along the way, it might stall needed action as we await the inquiry conclusions.

What is clear, though, is that the four-year, $44 million Quebec process served as an effective awakening of society and spurred a radical reform of its municipal and provincial institutions. On balance, this new clarity would serve the public interest. If the BC NDP government doesn’t wish to follow suit, we will need a better explanation than its cryptic signals to date.