High-profile money laundering case won't proceed

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      The headlines have been sensational.

      The public has reacted with anger and fury.

      But in the end, prosecutors have stayed money-laundering charges against a Richmond-based company, Silver International Investments Ltd., and two men—Caisuan Qin and Jain Jun Zhu—that arose out of the RCMP's massive E-Pirate probe. It investigated how ill-gotten cash was allegedly washed through B.C. casinos.

      A Public Prosecution Service of Canada spokesperson told the Vancouver Sun's Gordon Hoekstra that "the charges did not meet its prosecution test, which stipulate there be a reasonable prospect of conviction on evidence likely to be available at trial and it would serve the public interest".

      Meanwhile, the media's heavy coverage of money laundering—which has been fuelled in part by the Dirty Money report commissioned by Attorney General David Eby—has contributed to a Sinophobic backlash on various websites.

      This week, for example, a commenter on the Global B.C. News site included this comment about "the chinese": "I wonder how long before push come to shove before we push back with great violence."

      That was followed by this response: "Yup kill them all..."

      These public calls for violence came in response to a Global B.C. story about a secret RCMP report about money being laundered into real estate. The report included a plea for greater resources from Ottawa to address the issue—just as finance ministry officials are working on next year's federal budget.

      Last month, Eby issued a statement to OnePacificNews insisting that anyone "who uses the German report to legitimize anti-Chinese sentiment is intentionally distorting the findings in order to perpetuate racist attacks".

      “Any criminal actions, such as threats or hate crimes, should be brought to the appropriate local law enforcement agency,"  Eby declared.

      As the Mounties seek more money from Ottawa to investigate money laundering, the RCMP faces the prospect of losing its largest municipal policing contract in the country if Surrey mayor Doug McCallum follows through on his promise to create a municipal force.

      One factor that has contributed to corporate secrecy in B.C. is section 49 of the Business Corporations Act. It sets out strict rules making it virtually impossible for journalists and the public to determine the beneficial owners of private companies.

      This law was introduced during former B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell's first term of office. Since the NDP took power in the summer of 2017, Premier John Horgan's government has not amended this section to spread more sunshine in this area.

      In the 1990s, journalists could walk into corporate records offices in B.C. and view shareholder lists. 

      It's still possible to determine the beneficial ownership of private companies in neighbouring Alberta and in Quebec, according to a 2016 report by Transparency International Canada.

      Among its recommendations was that nominee directors and shareholders should be identified in corporate filings.

      "They should be required to name the natural person on whose behalf they are acting," the report stated. "Nominees should keep contact details for that individual and ensure they are accurate and up to date."