B.C. attorney general pushing for U.S.-style racketeering laws to combat organized crime

As the inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia winds to a close, CTV News has learned Attorney General David Eby has been asking the federal government to re-write parts of the Criminal Code to make it easier to target and convict people associated with organized crime groups.

Specifically, he would like to see Canada adopt tougher racketeering and money laundering laws similar to the United States Racketeering Influence and Corruption Act, which prosecutors have used to successfully target mafia families and other organized crime groups.

“The RICO statutes were very useful in bringing down organized crime with the five families in New York, with labour unions, with politicians,” said Scott Schumacher, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. “It adds a separate federal crime for organizations that commit existing crimes.”

Each RICO charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in a U.S. federal prison, and when the act is used the Justice Department can pre-emptively freeze a defendant's assets – and seize them outright in the event of a conviction.

Eby has been looking for enhanced federal laws to go after organized crime groups for more than two years.

“I’ve made many proposals to the federal government, including RICO-style United States-style laws, unexplained wealth orders, increasing and dedicated policing to go after money-laundering in the province,” he told CTV News.

The Cullen Commission has heard international organized crime groups have laundered hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in dirty money through the province.

In a January 2019 letter to Bill Blair, then federal minister of border security and organized crime reduction, Eby outlined the problem and suggested possible solutions, including enhanced racketeering laws.

“Law enforcement veterans who specialize in organized crime regularly raise concerns in the media and privately about the inability, under Canadian law, for successful large-scale prosecutions of the leaders of organized criminal groups to proceed, regardless of resources in law enforcement,” Eby wrote.

With the federal election in full swing, Eby promised to keep up the pressure no matter who wins.

"There are many opportunities available to the federal government,” he said. “And I look forward to working with whatever new administration comes in to address the issues.”