B.C. real estate industry collaborates to curb money laundering

In an effort to curtail money laundering through real estate in British Columbia—a well-documented problem—a group of organizations are lobbying the provincial and federal governments with the appropriate steps to take.

The British Columbia Real Estate Association, the Appraisal Institute of Canada-B.C. Association, B.C. Notaries Association, Canadian Mortgage Brokers Association-British Columbia and the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver collaborated on how to tackle the problem and also released their joint recommendations to the media.

Given that multiple parties are involved in real estate transactions, the group says that it will require a coordinated effort to ensure that unscrupulous forces are kept at bay and prevented from washing dirty money through the province’s real estate.

“A real estate transaction involves multiple professionals. It will take a coordinated effort by all involved, working in collaboration with government, to stop money laundering. The joint recommendations and best practices submitted by these organizations reflect their commitment to the professionals and consumers they serve,” read a media statement.

A major barrier for would-be money launderers is insistence upon only accepting verified funds, and the group recommends all sectors of real estate align on that point.

Additionally, mandatory anti-money laundering education is recommended for all real estate professionals so that they can identify suspicious activity and accordingly report it.

“FINTRAC [Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada] should work closely with sector organizations, regulators and the provincial government to improve existing resources so that they better reflect real world situations and improve compliance,” continued the statement.

The group also proposed what it calls “smart regulation,” by which the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act is amended so that FINTRAC intelligence can find its way to the right government bodies, including the B.C. Securities Commission and the Financial Institutions Commission, with ease.

“Optimally, the federal and provincial government, as well as their respective agencies, should coordinate their actions, share information, such as the provincial assignment registry, and create a comprehensive, efficient enforcement regime.”

For the sake of developing “compliance resources and test policy ideas,” the group recommends FINTRACT regularly engage real estate professionals. “This will result in well-crafted, practical regulation and foster a culture of compliance to protect consumers and the economy.”