Citizens bring money into suitcases and reusable shopping bags at the town hall to pay taxes according to the accounts of two city councilors, including one who says it has happened "several times" last year.
NPA Accounts. Melissa De Genova and Green Party Coun. Adriane Carro appeared in the debate Tuesday before the Council unanimously approved a lengthy De Genova proposal to help city officials work with the police and the government to prevent money laundering in local businesses and city hall transactions.
"I just saw it," De Genova said in the council. "We can have stories about this other hand, but I've seen it a couple of times, and that's about me."
De Genova added: "I'm not saying all the cash that comes to Vancouver is spilled is a crime proceeds, but I think we will definitely discourage it and prevent it, or we will limit it by having at least some sort of control and balance. "
Carr said in the chamber that she had not personally seen people coming to town halls, "but I have people to report seeing people coming to town hall cash boxes to pay for their property tax."
Carr added, "So when you get this kind of news … we should look into it."
Courier spoke to both counselors on Wednesday about the events.
Last July, De Genova said she saw a man in the main hall of the town hall, which had black bags of money in it. The man asked her where he could pay "taxes".
"[The money] was in the bag, and that was very clear – I saw it in the bag, "she said," I do not know they even knew I was a city councilor. "
A few months before, she said, she saw another man in the same place with a money bag.
"They had a reusable bag – one of those you could see in the grocery store – and that was just stuffed with cash," De Genova said. "They did not try to hide everything. I was quite impressed when I saw it myself."
At that time, it was not clear to De Genova whether the two men were in the lobby to pay real estate tax, house tax, or make another transaction related to a business license or city tax.
For a tax on empty houses, the city collects one percent of the taxable property if the property is empty. The city estimates it will receive revenue of $ 38 million for the first year of tax.
Carr said she received news from two citizens over the past few months that people would bring suitcases to the town hall to pay for real estate tax. Asked how citizens knew the trunks contained cash and that money was used to pay property taxes, Carr said:
"These are unofficial reports-it's not a formal thing someone told me in writing, but they absolutely say they personally saw that people brought a trunk of money to the town hall and took out cash for paying real estate tax, that's what I was handed over . "
Melanie Kerr, the director of city financial services, said in an e-mail: "There was no one who would bring the money to the Town Hall in the trunk." Courier then asked for shopping bags but did not get an answer before the story was posted.
Despite some Metro Vancouver municipalities that do not receive cash payments at their large halls, Vancouver still allows transactions. Self-governing units are not required to report suspicious activity to the Financial Transaction and Reporting Analysis Center, Canada's Financial Intelligence Unit. FINTRAC's mandate is to detect, prevent and discourage money laundering and terrorist financing.
Last year, the city earned more than $ 2 billion in revenue from services such as parking permits, fines, trade licenses, municipal taxes, and taxes levied on behalf of other authorities. Of the $ 2 billion, approximately $ 13 million was paid in cash.
"For many years, we've been encouraging people to use more efficient payment methods, including online or bank payments, and in the future we are looking at reducing or eliminating cash as a payment method as a way of managing risk and increasing efficiency," Kerr said.
Sgt. Jason Robillard, a Vancouver police officer, said in an e-mail that "there have been no reports of suspicious payments to the City Hall over the last five years, including reports of someone trying to pay out of the trunk in cash."
De Genova acknowledged the real estate tax invoice would not necessarily require the landlord to bring the money into a food bag or suitcase, but said that blank home tax payments and a $ 30,000 annual license for a marijuana dispensary could be expensive.
"In the light of empty homes, the tax is relatively new, and these $ 30,000 cannabis retail licenses – it's a bit different than people who pay twice a year at City Hall for cash for their property tax," she said and mentioned, they do not have bank accounts and do not pay in cash.
Over the last few years, various media stories and police and government reports have linked real estate, casino gambling and money laundering. B.C. the government-mandated "Dirty Money" report indicated that more than $ 100 million was spent in the province. Recent police reports estimated that the total dollar is in Canada closer to $ 1 billion.
De Genova's proposal calls for urban staff to take on a range of tasks to prevent and discourage money laundering, including:
- Have workers work directly with the Vancouver Police Department, the Prosecutor General's Office and the Provincial Government to find a system in which the city of Vancouver can share relevant information with the relevant money-laundering authorities.
- Employees will review the powers available in the Vancouver Charter to require "rigorous financial reporting" from businesses, individuals, companies and companies to pay specific taxes, licenses, and any kind of property or commercial property tax "likely to attract money money laundering and / or organized crime. "
- Employees shall immediately review and take the necessary measures with regard to security protocols and cash-flow processes and allow staff to take the necessary security measures in the interests of public security.
- Staff members work with the Vancouver Police Department to review the process and methods of payment received by Vancouver.