Commissioner Austin Cullen, back centre, listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in B.C. in Vancouver, on Monday, February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Acceptance of cash deposits rare in real estate, B.C. money laundering inquiry hears

B.C. Real Estate Association: Working group urged mortgage brokers to only accept verifiable funds

The organization representing real estate agents in B.C. has told a provincial inquiry into money laundering that its members have only ever accepted modest cash deposits in rare circumstances.

A lawyer for the B.C. Real Estate Association says the sector struck a working group in response to two government-commissioned reports last year that found the housing market had become a hotbed for dirty money.

Chris Weafer says the working group recommended that mortgage brokers and others in the real estate industry should only accept funds that are verifiable through Canadian financial institutions.

However, Weafer says an analysis shows that an acceptance of cash deposits in B.C. real estate has never been common practice unless there were extenuating circumstances, and even then amounts were modest.

Kevin Westell, representing the Canadian Bar Association and Criminal Defence Advocacy Society, told the inquiry today that lawyers should not be required to report to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre, or Fintrac.

He says such a requirement would violate crucial solicitor-client privilege, compromise the independence of the bar and add to a “disturbing” trend of the B.C. government undermining the work of lawyers.

READ MORE: Money laundering has warped economy and fuelled opioid crisis, B.C. tells inquiry

The Canadian Press

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