Council doing ‘nothing’ over reports

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Eby says just one of 536 complaints sent to organization in 2015 was investigated

The Vancouver Sun

NDP MLA David Eby said in the legislature Thursday the B.C. Real Estate Council is unfit to ?investigate itself.? MARK VAN MANEN/PNG

The B.C. Real Estate Council is “refusing to investigate realtors alleged to be involved in fraud and money laundering,” the NDP’s housing critic charged Thursday in the B.C. legislature.

Citing the council’s response to a recent report in The Province on a transaction involving realtor Liang Ming Wei, Point Grey MLA David Eby argued the council is unfit to “investigate itself.”

This week, Premier Christy Clark’s government asked the real estate council to investigate allegations after media reports about alleged realtor frauds, self-dealings, money laundering and obscuring of offshore buyers’ identities.

Critics, including some Vancouver realtors, have suggested that tasking a self-regulating industry group with investigating licensed members is just a public relations move to appease public anger.

On Thursday, Eby said evidence in a B.C. Securities Commission fraud hearing showed Liang Ming Wei had allegedly deposited fraudulent bank drafts in his client’s bank account among other allegedly “fraudulent actions.”

Citing the council’s response to repeated questions from The Province on Liang Ming Wei’s actions, Eby told the legislature: “They don’t call the police or Fintrac (Canada’s anti-money laundering agency). “They do nothing.” Eby said the council received 536 complaints about realtors in 2015 and investigated only one.

“With mounting evidence,” he told the legislature, “the council has failed to remove bad-apple realtors.”

Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the council takes seriously both its regulatory responsibility and the current investigation.

Meanwhile, Green party MLA Andrew Weaver introduced a private member’s bill to amend B.C.’s Land Title Act.

He said that with his proposed changes the government could better track home purchases and foreign investment.

Weaver told de Jong that by failing to close legal loopholes that allow investors to dodge B.C.’s property transfer tax, the government’s policy is “contributing to rampant speculation.”

Ontario has already moved to tax certain property investment that doesn’t include actual changes in ownership title, Weaver said.

Summarizing changes in his proposed bill, Weaver stated: “There are at least three dimensions to this problem in Metro Vancouver: Government-incentivized speculation, preponderance of vacant homes and non-enforcement of illegal realtor transactions.

“While it is great that this government is finally starting to pay attention to what is happening in the Lower Mainland housing market, their first step has been to call upon others for action.

“The reality is there are a number of actions that this government could take to address all three aspects of this issue.”

Weaver estimated that a third of the Coquitlam homes he recently canvassed in a neighbourhood are empty.

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