WATCH: Liberal MP’s firm completed controversial “bare trust” land deal for alleged “drug boss.”– A A +
The law firm of Richmond Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido facilitated a secretive financial transaction that might have helped an alleged Chinese cartel “drug boss” launder his unexplained wealth through a Metro Vancouver condo development, a Global News investigation reveals.
The service that Peschisolido’s firm completed is a so-called “bare trust” joint venture.
This type of deal is legal, but a client involved in this case who is a convicted drug-trafficker should have raised “huge red flags” for the Canadian politician’s firm, according to financial crime experts that reviewed documents obtained by Global News.
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Bare trust deals have become extremely controversial in the midst of B.C.’s money laundering scandal because the transactions allow investors to hide their ownership of land in documents only accessible to lawyers.
Critics, including B.C. Attorney General David Eby and Finance Minister Carole James, have called bare trusts a loophole that helped drive home prices higher and turned B.C. real estate into a secrecy haven ideal for international criminals seeking to hide dirty money and evade taxes.
The land deal facilitated by a lawyer at Peschisolido’s firm in 2011 involves a company directed by Kwok Chung Tam, an alleged “heavyweight” in the Big Circle Boys, a powerful Mainland China-based drug cartel, according to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) records.
The deal was completed while Tam was still serving a conditional sentence for a 2010 drug trafficking conviction, court records show. The bare trust allowed Tam to conceal his ownership stake in a $7.75-million purchase of a 3.7 acre property in Coquitlam, B.C. that sold for $14.8 million in 2015.
The records from Peschisolido’s firm are among thousands of pages submitted to the federal court by the government and Tam’s lawyers as part of his legal battle to stay in Canada.
Many of the records — including those about Tam’s alleged connection to the Big Circle Boys — have never been tested in court.
‘A case of willful blindness’
As Global News has reported, Tam’s alleged leadership role with the Big Circle Boys and his alleged deep ties to B.C.’s casino and real estate industries could make him a poster child for the province’s public inquiry into the so-called “Vancouver Model” of transnational money laundering.
But the legal services completed by Peschisolido’s former practice — which the B.C. Law Society took custody of in April 2019 for unexplained reasons — could also attract the inquiry’s spotlight.
That’s because the inquiry is expected to examine bare trusts and the regulatory loophole that exempts Canadian lawyers from reporting suspicious transactions to Fintrac, Canada’s anti-money laundering watchdog.