How do criminals clean their dirty money in Canada? By handing hockey bags full of illicit 20-dollar bills to gamblers and letting them loose on Vancouver’s casino floors, of course.
What happened: A new government report on money laundering in BC revealed that billions of dollars of criminal funds have flowed through casinos, real estate, and luxury goods every year, per The New York Times.
In the absence of effective federal law enforcement, British Columbia, specifically the Vancouver area, has earned a reputation as a “snow washing” haven—which refers to cleaning illegal cash in Canada.
…you’re probably wondering how we ended up in this situation.
The province’s government started an inquiry in 2019 after a series of reports sounded alarm bells about money laundering across real estate, casino, horse racing, and luxury car sectors, partly fuelled by the illegal drug trade.
- A US government report released shortly after also added Canada to a list of ~80 “major money laundering countries” with weak law enforcement and gaps in its laws.
- The new report laid partial blame at the feet of BC’s former gaming ministers, who “could have done more,” along with the RCMP’s lack of attention to the issue.
Why it matters: Sophisticated money launderers have singled out BC as a place they won’t get caught. As the country’s third-largest province by GDP, billions in unchecked funds annually not only destabilize the economy for Westerners but affect the whole country.
What’s next: Already, the BC government has tightened the rules at casinos and launched a public land ownership registry, requiring certain real estate holders to disclose their owners.