Vancouver money laundering not just found in casinos. It’s fuelling a booming luxury car business, too

Bloomberg News Natalie Obiko Pearson

Latest probe into dirty money found a thriving grey market in which Chinese buyers pay people to buy cars and claim millions in sales tax refunds

Grocery bags full of cash hauled into car dealerships. Gangsters paying for auto leases with proceeds of crime. A thriving grey market in which Chinese buyers pay people to purchase cars in Vancouver and claim millions of dollars in sales tax refunds.

Those are some of the scenes uncovered by the provincial government’s latest probe into dirty money in the Vancouver area, a city already under scrutiny for the role its casinos played over years as “laundromats” and the torrent of foreign cash that fuelled Canada’s most expensive real estate market.

“This report is disturbing confirmation that money laundering in British Columbia is a problem that goes beyond our casinos,” British Columbia Attorney General David Eby said Tuesday of the latest findings from a report by independent investigator Peter German.

Vancouver’s preponderance of supercars has long raised eyebrows. Its University of British Columbia has been called the University of Beautiful Cars for its student-owned fleet of Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and Porsches. At one point, the city of 2.4 million had one of the world’s top-performing Rolls-Royce dealerships. As one dealer quoted by the report puts it, “we are selling way too many luxury and premium cars for this economy, for what people earn here.”

China Export Scheme

The probe’s biggest surprise finding was a booming trade in luxury vehicle exports driven by an arbitrage between the price of high-end cars in Canada versus China. The government described that grey market as “ideal” for facilitating trade-based money laundering.


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