British Columbia’s premier says he’s frustrated about the collapse of a money laundering case against an alleged transnational gangster, and is lobbying the federal government to change the law covering similar offences.
On Wednesday, a special prosecutor appointed to review the RCMP’s massive, multi-year E-Nationalize investigation declined to move ahead with charges against accused money launderer Paul King Jin.
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The investigation found that Jin — identified only as X in the legal filings — moved millions of dollars in and out of the country for clients, sometimes in the form of bank drafts or casino chips.
In a statement, special prosecutor Christopher Considine, K.C. said Canadian law as currently written did not allow for the substantial likelihood of conviction.
Considine found that the money transfers were clearly suspicious, but said that Canadian law did not overtly criminalize operating an unlicensed money services business, meaning prosecutors would likely fail to prove the money he was moving was the proceeds of crime.
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“It’s probably shocking to British Columbians that you can have somebody in our province accepting suitcases full of bundled bills, operating an unlicensed, illegal so-called money services business, receiving that money clandestinely, and that after teams of prosecutors have reviewed that conduct that there is no criminal charge they can find that they can proceed with,” Premier David Eby said.
“Obviously there’s a serious problem with the federal criminal law that allows this conduct to continue in our province. I have communicated that on a number of occasions to the federal government and to their credit they have made some changes since we started engaging.”
Eby said the province was pressing the federal government for more changes, but that the province was also acting on its own.
He pointed to plans to introduce “unexplained wealth orders,” a new measure that would expand on existing civil forfeiture laws that allow the province to seize alleged proceeds of crime outside of the criminal justice system.
“If you have assets like cash, luxury cars or housing, you appear to be connected to organized crime or to corruption and you have no apparent source of income that you are using to purchase these assets, you need to demonstrate where that money is coming from, and if you can’t we will be seizing those assets,” Eby said.
The case comes on the heels of B.C.’s Cullen Commission public inquiry, which found money laundering had persisted in B.C. casinos for years and flagged failures on the part of government but ruled out political corruption.
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In his statement, Considine recommended changes to Canada’s Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) to make it easier to prosecute alleged money launderers.
Considine explained that while failing to register a money services business is an offence in Canada, actually operating one does not appear to be.
That meant that while “large bundles of cash are highly suspicious,” the Crown would have been unlikely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the money being moved was the proceeds of crime.
Lawyer Wally Oppal, K.C., who is also a former B.C. Supreme Court judge and provincial attorney general, said changes to the law would be necessary to secure a conviction in future, similar cases.
“I can understand why the public would be upset, I can understand why the police who have done so much work here would be disappointed and upset. But the fact is the Crown, under our system, lays the charges. And they only do it if there is a substantial likelihood for conviction,” he said.
“And here, I don’t see any way where there could be a conviction here where they can’t prove that those proceeds that were being moved — albeit in a secretive way — were being moved in a way that wasn’t criminal under our criminal law.”
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The E-Nationalization investigation alleged that Jin would have wealthy clients transfer cash from outside of Canada to accounts run by his associates in China.
The associates would then deliver near equivalent amounts to his couriers in Canada, which he would store in a safe house or deliver to clients in the form of cash, bank drafts or casino chips.
Investigators alleged that between the period of Feb. 4 and May 19 of 2017 alone, he took in $5.4 million from his associates, paid out more than $6 million to clients, and deposited about $7.2 million in the associates Chinese accounts.
As a part of the investigation, police seized 90 smart phones and collected more than 41,000 documents and two million intercepted communications, most of them in Mandarin.
Police recommended eight charges, including laundering currency and possession of property obtained through a criminal offence, failure to register a money services business, participating in a criminal organization, and instructing and counselling a person to commit robbery, intimidation and mischief for the benefit of a criminal organization.
E-Nationalization marked the second time a massive, resource intensive investigation targeting Jin ended without prosecution.
In 2018, prosecutors stayed charges against him in a similar investigation, dubbed E-Pirate,
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