By Laura Kane
THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER _Canada must urgently create public registries that reveal the true owners of corporations in order to shed its international reputation as a destination for laundering the proceeds of crime, an inquiry has heard.
A coalition of tax fairness groups told British Columbia’s money laundering inquiry Wednesday that hiding ill-gotten cash behind shell companies is so widespread in Canada it’s known globally as “snow washing.”
“It is no wonder criminals set their sights on Canada, which has some of the weakest corporate transparency laws in the world,” said James Cohen, representing Transparency International Canada, Canadians For Tax Fairness and Publish What You Pay Canada.
“There are more rigorous checks to obtain a library card than there are to set up a shell company.”
B.C. launched the provincial inquiry amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping to fuel its real estate, luxury car and gambling sectors. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is participating and says it is committed to tackling the national problem.
Three days of opening arguments concluded Wednesday. The inquiry will reconvene in May to quantify the extent of money laundering in B.C. before main hearings in September through December delve into specific industries.
Cohen, executive director of Transparency International Canada, said it joined forces with the other two groups in 2016 after the Panama Papers shed new light on wealthy individuals’ use of offshore companies to evade taxes.
The leaked documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca also revealed that Canada was being marketed as a location to bring dirty money and have it cleaned like the “pure white snow,” he said.
There are a number of gaps in Canada’s anti-money laundering law but a key problem is its weak beneficial ownership regime, which allows company owners to remain anonymous, Cohen said.
He proposed adding owner information to existing business registries already in place in provinces and territories. This addition would deter money laundering while still respecting privacy rights, he argued.
Cohen noted that the United Kingdom gathers information about owners that is available to authorities but limits the details that are posted publicly on its registry. For example, an owner’s month and year of birth are posted but not the date.
He praised B.C. for creating a land ownership registry that identifies those buying real estate, as well as the federal government for consulting with provinces and territories on a possible national registry, but he urged swifter action.
“The extent of secrecy granted to companies has come at a high cost to Canadians, particularly in British Columbia,” he said. “Bad actors have exploited Canada’s stable economy, leading to crime, housing unaffordability and increased corruption.”
The organization representing real estate agents in British Columbia told the inquiry that it has taken action since several government-commissioned reports found the housing market had become a hotbed for dirty money.
A lawyer for the B.C. Real Estate Association said it supported the province’s land ownership registry and it also struck a working group with others in the sector to make anti-money laundering recommendations.
Chris Weafer asked commissioner Austin Cullen to accept those recommendations, including that the provincial and federal governments create a “comprehensive, efficient enforcement regime” that avoids duplication of reporting practices.
He also pushed back on the idea that mortgage brokers or others in the industry regularly accept cash deposits. This practice has never been common except in extenuating circumstances and even then amounts were modest, he said.
“The regulation of Realtors and the real estate industry is in a state of flux in this province, through taxes, new regulations and legislation,” Weafer said.
“As a participant in these proceedings, BCREA can provide a practical lens to give the inquiry a boots-on-the-ground perspective of the current and past state of the industry, and provide insight as to what the industry may look like following proposed changes.”
Another key issue is to what extent lawyers should be included in the national anti-money laundering regime, given that they are involved in large purchases of assets and the creation of corporations, partnerships and trusts.
Kevin Westell, representing the Canadian Bar Association and Criminal Defence Advocacy Society, said the regime should not apply to the legal profession. Requiring lawyers to report suspicious activity to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre, or Fintrac, would violate solicitor-client privilege, he said.
It would also add to a “disturbing” trend of the B.C. government undermining the work of lawyers, he said, pointing to policies including proposed changes to its public auto insurer that would ban injured people from suing at-fault drivers.
Both the bar association and defence advocacy society recognize the inquiry is important, Westell said.
“At the same time, both organizations are wary that the zealous search for solutions to the money laundering problem will lead to investigative and regulatory overreach that could endanger the independence of lawyers, the privacy of private citizens and the rights of all Canadians to a free and just society.”
Getting arrested for driving impaired is a terrible way to start off the new year, as 284 people found out in January.
The January spotlight found police across the province reporting 231 Criminal Code charges for impaired driving and 53 roadside administrative suspensions.
While many New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside, it’s important to commit to drive sober or plan a safe ride home when you know you’ll be impaired by drugs or alcohol. Saskatchewan has tough consequences for impaired drivers, and impaired driving is the leading cause of death on Saskatchewan roads.
Distracted driving tickets decline for third consecutive month
The number of reported distracted driving offences continued to trend lower in January after seeing significant drops in both November and December. Police reported 509 tickets issued last month (including 405 for cellphone use).
Remember, distracted driving penalties increased Feb. 1, but police officers were keeping a close eye on distracted drivers long before the change, and will continue to focus on this issue.
In January, police in Saskatchewan also reported the following:
- 428 tickets related to seatbelts and car seats and,
- 5,563 tickets for speeding and aggressive driving.
February’s Traffic Safety Spotlight continues to be on distracted driving. Avoiding a big ticket (plus demerits, and vehicle impoundment for a repeat offence) is easy. Leave the phone alone, be wary of other behaviours that might distract you, and #JustDrive.
NEW YORK, N.Y. — NFP Canada Corp., an insurance broker serving the needs of the trucking industry, is unifying its Canadian businesses under the “NFP” brand, further integrating acquired brokerages.
The company announced Tuesday that several of its Canadian brokerages, including Capital Benefit Financial Group, Corporate Benefits Analysts Insurance Agency, Consortia Group, PBL Insurance Limited, Dalton Timmis Insurance Group, Mass Insurance Brokers, McLean Hallmark Insurance Group, Elective Benefits Services and Indemnis Trade Risk Management, will adopt the NFP name.
This implementation marks the latest in a series of strategic initiatives of NFP Corp. across North America, the company said.
“We are thrilled to come together under the NFP brand and unify our operations in Canada,” said Greg Padovani, president of NFP in Canada.
“The integration of these well-established firms creates a platform for NFP that has the size, scale, and capabilities to provide a full range of insurance solutions to Canadian corporations and individuals.”
NFP is one of the top 10 Canadian brokerages, with 750 employees.
It may seem like un-Canadian behaviour, but new research from Finder Canada shows that a surprising number of Canucks not only hope for an ‘insurance-paid upgrade,’ but would actually crash a car, break a bone or burn down a house to get it … if they wouldn’t get caught.
“Honestly, we thought the numbers for the illegal insurance actions would be much lower,” said William Eve,” Country Manager for Finder Canada. “We began this as an exercise to show how stereotypically honest Canadians are.”
Key Findings of the research:
i) Canadians are willing to do the crime… if they don’t get the time!
21% – one in five Canadian adults – would stage an event or mislead an insurance company to get an insurance-paid upgrade… providing they don’t get caught.
12% would crash their car or pretend it was stolen, 10% would flood or burn down their house and 6% would go as far as breaking their own arm or pretend to have a chronic illness for insurance money.
More than twice as many men (13%) vs. (6%) women would burn down or flood their home. Significantly more men (15%) vs. women (8%) would crash a car or pretend it was stolen.
ii) Younger Canadians are more likely to create a car catastrophe
Gen Z (26%) and Millennials (16%) are far more likely to crash, damage or say their car was stolen than older Canadians–like the Silent Generation (5%), and Baby Boomers (5%).
iii) Nearly half of Canadians are secretly hoping for an insurance-paid upgrade
43% of Canadians surveyed said that they are secretly hoping for damage to their property and possessions to get an upgrade.
iv) Many Canadians are unhappy with their cars
27% of Canadian adults are hoping for an insurance paid upgrade on their cars and 24% would endure a car accident (where no one is hurt but the car is totaled) to get one. On the extreme side, 11% of Canadian adults would endure a car crash where they broke bones but suffered no permanent damage to get an upgrade.
v) Nearly no-one would endure a bed bug infestation for the insurance money
Only 8% of Canadians would suffer through a bed bug attack for an upgrade, meaning they would prefer to suffer through a car accident (24%), a massive flood in their home (14%), or a fire where their home burns down (16%) than deal with bed bugs.
“The truth is that false claims and fraud drive insurance costs up for all Canadians,” added Eve. “For those who are caught, there are severe fines, costs and even jail time. At the very least, they lose their coverage and ability to get insurance coverage in the future. It’s much smarter (and safer) to carefully compare policies and get the very best deal possible on insurance premiums.”
You can find the full report here: www.finder.com/ca/insurance-paid-upgrade-report
Please refer to this Finder Canada research in any media coverage
About Finder Canada:
Millions of North Americans use Finder to help them make better financial decisions. Finder understands that making everyday life decisions such as finding a credit card, buying a home and getting health insurance can be daunting. That’s why we’re here. Our goal is to help Canadians navigate those complex decisions by making them less of a chore (and hopefully less of a bore, too!)
Data is from a national representative survey of 1,200 Canadian adults commissioned by Finder and conducted by PureProfile in February 2020.
SOURCE Finder Canada