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by Imad Habre



Mandatory anti-money laundering course rolls out for B.C. realtors    Provided by: Imad Habre
1/13/2020

 

The Real Estate Council of British Columbia (RECBC) launched a mandatory course on money laundering Thursday in a bid to help stem some of the billions of dollars in dirty money flowing through the industry. 

The online course teaches realtors how to identify red flags for money laundering and what steps to take to report suspicious transactions. 

All professional realtors must pass the course in order to renew their licenses as of April 1. 

More than $5 billion in dirty money was laundered through real estate transactions in B.C. in 2018, according to a report for the B.C. government released last May.

But identifying money launderers can be complicated, said Erin Seeley, chief executive officer at RECBC. 

"It's not just about cash," said Seeley on CBC's The Early Edition on Thursday. "In most transactions the money flows through a financial institution and is being integrated back into the economy."

Red flags for realtors

Seeley said red flags realtors should be on the look out for include the use of unregulated lenders; purchasing without a mortgage; and nominee owners, who are individuals given legal ownership rights on behalf of the true owner.

"We do believe real estate professionals are complying, but we would like them to look at the more complex transactions that aren't as obvious," said Seeley. 

The course launched the same day a B.C. commission charged with looking into the province's money-laundering problem confirmed dates for its public hearings. The commission will begin hearing opening statements in the Federal Court of Canada in February.

The commission was announced in May 2019 by Premier John Horgan after a series of reports revealed the scale of the problem in the province. 

Altogether, dirty money in the real estate market accounted for an estimated 72 per cent of the $7.4 billion that the experts believe was laundered in total in B.C.in 2018.

"This is a provincial issue we need to take seriously," said Seeley. "Real estate agents are critical and closely positioned to be able to deter money laundering."

Reporting suspicious activity 

Real estate agents are required to report suspicious transactions within 30 days to the Financial Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). 

Agents must also report to FINTRAC within 15 days if they receive $10,000 or more in cash, either in a single or multiple transactions, within 24 hours. 

Seeley said RECBC is the first real estate regulator in the country to introduce a mandatory anti-money laundering course and sign a memorandum of understanding with FINTRAC.