The Truth about Real Estate Money Laundering in BC.

When the Times Colonist published an editorial Sunday on money laundering, the Victoria Real Estate Board felt it was important to respond to some of the misinformation it contained. The following letter was sent to the editor on Monday. Unfortunately, the TC has chosen not to publish the letter. It is unfortunate they didn’t run the letter….instead a small correction was printed in today’s paper.

A Sunday Editorial referred to the issue of money laundering in British Columbia. It mentioned that real estate firms would have known if money was “dirty” and stated that the industry was not required to report large cash transactions. That is patently untrue.

As noted in the Expert Panel on Money Laundering in BC Real Estate report, real estate firms report to FINTRAC and must fulfill specific obligations under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. Further, Realtors and real estate firms do not receive large amounts of cash. The only slim potential for a cash transaction is the cash deposit. Cash deposits represent a small fraction of the value of a real estate transaction – any significant cash deposit would trigger stringent FINTRAC reporting requirements. Deposits are almost always in the form of a draft or cheque from a chartered bank or credit union.

It is misleading to lump real estate firms (and by association Realtors) with casinos and car dealerships as entities that accept large amounts of cash. It is untrue that real estate is purchased with large amounts of cash funneled through real estate firms. Casting blame on a profession that has for years worked to comply with federal requirements oversimplifies the more serious issues around money laundering.

Recent reports have shown that money laundering is impacting the real estate market and many other facets of our local economy and across the country. These types of transactions are supported by bad actors who are hidden behind layers of legal and financial complication. Identifying and prosecuting these organized crime webs will require substantial focus and investment by our governments and their regulatory authorities. The Victoria Real Estate Board and other real estate entities support this work.

Please help to keep the focus on the facts in this complex battle on money laundering.

Cheryl Woolley, President
Victoria Real Estate Board