British Columbia’s luxury car sector is being used to launder the proceeds of crime, according to an independent review on money laundering through luxury cars and horse racing by former senior RCMP officer Peter German.
German's report, released Tuesday, May 7, 2019, is the first detailed examination of money laundering in luxury car sales in Canada.
The review found car dealers in B.C. reporting that individuals were bringing bags of money or orchestrating multiple small international wire transfers to different accounts to buy cars. Individuals with high-level criminal records are alleged to be principals in some used luxury car dealerships in the province. The report also uncovered a complicated luxury-vehicle export scheme involving hundreds of “straw buyers.” This is a grey market that German says is ideal to facilitate trade-based money laundering.
“This report is disturbing confirmation that money laundering in B.C. is a problem that goes beyond our casinos,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “In the luxury car market, there is no financial reporting of large cash purchases, no oversight of international bank wire transfers and no apparent investigation or enforcement. It’s all a recipe for exactly what happened here – Vancouver becoming North America’s luxury car capital, generally, and perhaps North America’s used luxury car export capital too.”
The new report describes individuals known as straw buyers who help facilitate the transaction of vehicles between sellers and exporters, and the dramatic increase in the use of the provincial sales tax (PST) refund, which applies to vehicles purchased in B.C. to be sold abroad.
Before 2014, fewer than 100 vehicles a year received the refund. In 2016, the PST was rebated on 3,674 vehicles. Since 2013, almost $85 million in PST refunds have been paid by government for the export of vehicles. The source and destination of funds for the buyers and sellers, and any income tax reporting by any of these individuals or entities, is unknown.
“We have not waited to take action on this report. The Ministry of Finance is reviewing Dr. German's findings, as well as vehicle exporters' use of the PST refund program. Details of allegations made in the report have been forwarded to police, ICBC and the Vehicle Sales Authority. We are also preparing plans for regulation of the luxury car sector,” Eby said. “Our government is committed to stamping out money laundering and the damage caused by organized crime – and building an economy that works for people in B.C.”
The impact of money laundering on the luxury car market is only part of German’s full report that will also include his findings on B.C.’s real estate sector. The full report will be released soon.
“Vancouver has an international reputation for being a desirable location for the activities of organized crime,” German said. “Our review of these sectors has shone a spotlight on how significant money laundering is in B.C., including in the luxury car sector. I am grateful for all the information I received from members of the public, government agencies, industry insiders and law enforcement during my review. I hope the report provides a window into money laundering in our province because it is a problem that can no longer remain unchecked.”