February 8, 2016 – BC NDP calls for investigation into Metro Vancouver real estate market allegations

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dt-vanVANCOUVER — New Democrats are calling for a formal provincial government investigation into the alleged fraudulent and insider trading practices of some realtors in the Metro Vancouver real estate market.

“The scope and scale of these illegitimate and illegal practices is not known, but it is certainly happening and could be costing the provincial government tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. To date the Christy Clark government has seemed completely indifferent to the issue,” said New Democrat spokesperson for housing David Eby. “Worse than the lost tax revenue is the potential that a significant number of bad apple realtors are assisting in international money laundering, and defrauding their clients through insider trading to enrich themselves. Why is our government not investigating this?”

Descriptions of the practices come from media reports, realtor sources, and court transcripts. The allegations include realtors allegedly avoiding the property transfer tax and capital gains tax while insider trading in a so-called “grey market,” and allegedly assisting clients in laundering money or concealing the origin of money used in real estate transactions.

In January, Eby wrote two letters to the B.C. Real Estate Council requesting they investigate tax avoidance and money laundering control avoidance tactics allegedly engaged in by some realtors following information provided to him by a whistleblower. The Real Estate Council declined to investigate.

Since then, two significant media investigations have uncovered multiple examples of realtors either concealing the origin of funds and counselling clients to avoid FINTRAC responsibilities, or flipping properties without paying the property transfer tax.

“The Real Estate Council of B.C. has an obligation to uphold the reputation of the hard working, community-focused realtors in our community by investigating and prosecuting the bad apples in the industry. The government has the responsibility to ensure that oversight body is fulfilling its role,” said Eby. “To date, the council is failing in that basic responsibility, and these realtors are operating with apparent impunity at the expense of our community and our international obligations.

“The premier and her government need to wake up and initiate a formal, independent investigation into these practices.”