Richmond candidates agree to disagree over money-laundering

There are few things that the BC NDP and the BC Liberals agree on at the best of times, let alone during an election campaign.

However, both their candidates in the Richmond-Queensborough riding have found a rare consensus – although unwittingly – when it comes to the ongoing issue of money-laundering in the province.

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The NDP’s Aman Singh and the Liberal incumbent Jas Johal are both keen for the findings of the current Cullen Commission into money-laundering, which has been put on hold during the election campaign.

That being said, their motives for the public inquiry to play out are as far apart as the two parties on most of the major election issues.

Singh, referring to “16 years of abject neglect” from the previous BC Liberal government, suggested his rival would be glad of the inquiry being temporarily halted, as he suspects the resultant recommendations might be damning indictment on the government of that time.

“Money-laundering ran rampant (during the BC Liberals’ reign),” said Singh, who lost out in the last election to Johal by just 134 votes.

“There was an RCMP report in 2009, outlining the high level of illegal gambling and money-laundering, gang activity, everything.

“(The BC Liberal government) eliminated funding for the IIGET (the RCMP’s anti-illegal gaming unit).

“But they didn’t stop there, the BC Liberal government has been wilfully blind to what was going on. And the effects of money-laundering has spread across the province, into the fentanyl crisis and into vehicles and housing.”

Johal, meanwhile, suggested the NDP wait until the inquiry comes to a conclusion, before making accusations and connections to the likes of the housing market.

“There’s been a lot of noise around this. There’s been a lot of innuendo and conjecture (from the NDP). But where are the facts?” said Johal.

“I can see the opportunity for politics here but I’d like to wait to see what the inquiry provides.

“The bigger issue is the financial institutions and how that money comes in. There’s a lot of academics commenting on this about the connections to the housing market, but there are few facts.

“We really need to do a better job of working with the federal government. Ninety-five per cent of money-laundering is done though banks, not casinos, that’s where we need to be focusing our energy.”

Johal said the Cullen inquiry is a “good one,” but the federal government has “been slow to deal with the international operations and they need to be pushed to do a better job.”

Singh claimed there has been a “major drop in suspicious cash transactions” since his party took over in 2017 and it would absolutely “follow through” on any recommendations made by the Cullen Commission.

Asked if a boost to financial resources would help tackle money-laundering in B.C., Johal again pointed to the commission.

“That’s why we need to hear from the Cullen inquiry. But I’m not against putting more money into casino enforcement, if that’s what (Cullen) recommends.”

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