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B.C. to hold public inquiry into money laundering

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VICTORIA — The British Columbia government will hold a public inquiry into money laundering.

Premier John Horgan says money laundering has had numerous impacts on people in the province including a rise in opioid deaths and higher housing costs.

The government released two reports last week estimating $7.4 billion in illegal cash was laundered in the province in 2018.

One of the reports said $5 billion of that was siphoned into real estate, forcing the costs of homes up by at least five per cent.

Horgan says the reports made it clear the depth and magnitude of money laundering in B.C. was far worse than the government imagined.

Attorney General David Eby says B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen has agreed to lead the inquiry and he’ll have the power to compel testimony, seize records and obtain search warrants.

“Even with many red flags, the problem of money laundering is bigger than we thought and more entrenched than we hoped,” Eby told a news conference on Wednesday.

He said money laundering is a “crisis” in the province’s economy.

When the reports were released last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the information was “extremely alarming,” adding that money laundering is hurting people by disrupting the housing market.

 

The Canadian Press

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International

No national security issue in Chinese takeover of Canadian lithium company: Liberals

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OTTAWA — The pending takeover of a Canadian lithium mining company by a Chinese state-owned company raises no national security concerns, federal Liberals argued Thursday.

Liberal MP Andy Fillmore, parliamentary secretary to Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, told a House of Commons committee that the Industry Department reviewed last fall the proposed takeover of Neo Lithium Corp. by China’s Zijin Mining Group Ltd.

That review concluded that Neo Lithium is “really not a Canadian company,” he told the industry committee, describing it as an Argentine company with directors in the United Kingdom and only three Canadian employees “on paper.”

He said the only reason Neo Lithium “had any Canadian toehold whatsoever,” was to get on the Toronto Stock Exchange in a bid to raise money for what Fillmore called an “increasingly dubious appearing” mine development project in Argentina.

Moreover, he said that project involves lithium carbonate, not the lithium hydroxide used to manufacture batteries that are critical for electric vehicles.

For those reasons, Fillmore said a formal national security review of the takeover was deemed unnecessary.

“These are the things they found, right? That in fact it’s not a relevant lithium to Canada’s national security interests and it’s not really a Canadian company.”

However, Conservative MP Ed Fast, who had called for the emergency committee meeting to find out why no formal security review was done, said it’s “just false” to say Neo Lithium is not a Canadian company.

And he noted that the company’s own website touts the mine as “the pre-eminent lithium brine asset in the world” to meet surging global demand for electric vehicle batteries.

“It goes without saying but bears restating that critical minerals such as lithium are a strategic asset, not only for Canada but for the world, and will play a critical role in driving our future prosperity and in meeting our environmental objectives,” Fast said.

While the mine in question is in Argentina, Fast argued that it is incumbent on Canada and other “free-trading, rules-following allies” to ensure the global critical minerals industry is not monopolized by one country, especially one whose interests “are sometimes hostile toward ours.”

China currently dominates the world’s supply of lithium and batteries.

Conservative MP Tracy Gray further argued that lithium carbonate can be converted into lithium hydroxide for use in batteries.

But Fillmore countered that the conversion process involves additional costs and “significant environmental implications,” which is why lithium hydroxide is preferred.

“I could probably make a passable hat using my socks but I’d much rather wear a hat,” he said.

Thursday’s meeting was called to consider a motion by Fast, calling for the committee to hold six meetings to explore the Neo Lithium takeover and whether a formal national security review should have been conducted.

In the end, committee members unanimously agreed to a Bloc Quebecois compromise to hold two meetings on the subject next week. The steering subcommittee, which is also to meet next week to set the committee’s agenda for the coming months, could decide to schedule more meetings on Neo Lithium.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2022.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

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Justice

CP NewsAlert: Man charged after four bodies found in Manitoba near border

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WINNIPEG — A Florida man has been charged with human smuggling after the bodies of four people, including a baby and a teen, were found in Manitoba near the United States border.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota says Steve Shand, who is 47, appeared in court earlier today.

The bodies were found yesterday in Manitoba near the border community of Emerson.

Mounties say it’s believed they died from exposure while trying to cross the border into the U.S. from Canada.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the dead were a family of four Indian nationals who were separated from others in a group crossing the border.

More coming …

The Canadian Press


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