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What is government doing to clamp down on questionable real estate, tax & immigration schemes?

Today on the first day of debates after the opening of the 3rd session of the 41st parliament I rose in Question Period to ask what the government was doing to clamp down on questionable immigration, tax and real estate schemes.

I made reference to a recent BC Supreme Court judgement (Fu v. Zhu, 2018), that was the focus of a story written by Douglas Todd in the Vancouver Sun describing “A shocking B.C. Supreme Court case that pitted two rich families from China against each other provides grim revelations about the kind of migration, tax, and real-estate scams regularly occurring in Metro Vancouver and beyond.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange.


Video of the Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: Happy Valentine’s Day to the House here today.

The recent Fu v. Zhu B.C. Supreme Court case concerning the case of multi-million dollar homes in Vancouver outlined questionable immigration, tax and real estate schemes occurring right here under our noses.

The judgment states that one of the parties “was sophisticated in lying, including scheming to deceive Canadian immigration authorities.” Another claimed just $97.11 in worldwide income, despite owning multi-million-dollar properties and one of China’s largest manufacturing and distribution companies.

That the parties had no problem outlining so many questionable activities before our courts shows little regard these individuals had for our laws. This government committed to crack down on fraud, tax evasion and money laundering in our markets, and the Civil Forfeiture Act allows properties to be seized that are linked to unlawful activities.

My question to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General is this: why aren’t we using civil forfeiture or a similar tool in cases like this one?


Answer


Hon. C. James: Thank you to the member, the Leader of the Third Party, for the question. Just on the very specific issue of civil forfeiture, I want to make it clear that the government doesn’t direct civil forfeiture procedures. Under the act, the civil forfeiture office has no independent investigative or seizure powers. It’s really up to the police, who make the determination around investigation, around priorities, and then they refer the assets that are seized under criminal law as they deem appropriate.

On the bigger question, on the bigger issue that the member raised — the issue of fraud, around speculation, the issue of the use of loopholes to avoid taxes — we are very concerned as a government about that direction. That’s why we took action, in our first update in September, to close loopholes, to act on gathering and sharing information that’s needed for enforcement — first steps. As you heard from the throne speech yesterday, there will be more to come in the budget. Stay tuned.


Supplementary Question


Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.

A. Weaver: Even if we can’t use civil forfeiture in cases like this, there’s an urgent need to address this problem. The current Attorney General has called B.C. “a jurisdiction where the rules do not apply to white-collar crime, fraud, tax evasion and money laundering, where even if the rules do apply, enforcement is absent.” In opposition, the now government spoke strongly about this challenge and the urgent need for action.

My question, again, is to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General or perhaps the Minister of Finance. If government isn’t going to use civil forfeiture as a tool for enforcement in cases like this, what immediate steps are you taking to ensure that the rules, in fact, do apply to tax evasion and fraud and that we have adequate enforcement to deal with those who break these rules?


Answer


Hon. C. James: To the member, six more days until the budget heads out. You will see some very specific actions contained in the budget. They were talked about a little bit in the throne speech. But there will be a comprehensive plan. It will include action to be able to deal with the approach around speculation, to deal with the evasion of taxes. Those are critical pieces. We have a table right now with the federal government that we are bringing those issues to because this is an issue that doesn’t simply impact British Columbia. It, in fact, impacts across Canada. So we need to make sure that the enforcement happens here in our province and also happens across the country. So we were working on those pieces, and you’ll see more details in the budget.

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