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B.C. files application for Canada's first unexplained wealth order, minister says

A hearing into Canada's first unexplained wealth order application is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2024, in B.C. Supreme Court. (Peter Scobie/CBC - image credit)
A hearing into Canada's first unexplained wealth order application is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2024, in B.C. Supreme Court. (Peter Scobie/CBC - image credit)

British Columbia's solicitor general has announced the filing of the first-ever application of an unexplained wealth order in Canada.

Mike Farnworth said the move is the start of a series of similar applications, which he described as powerful tools allowing the government to seize proceeds of crime and "put those engaging in illegal activity on notice.''

The application announced Thursday relates to a property on Salt Spring Island the government is trying to seize. Details of the case are contained in a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court by the director of civil forfeiture in September.

A hearing into the application is expected on Jan. 11, 2024.

A statement from Farnworth said the province "will not tolerate criminals prospering in our communities'' and will pursue illegally acquired properties, luxury vehicles, money laundering schemes and businesses operating as fronts.

Amendments to the Civil Forfeiture Act earlier this year allow the use of unexplained wealth orders, which require people to explain how they acquired their wealth and property if there is suspicion of criminal activity.

Confiscating unexplained wealth was one of the recommendations in the Cullen Report, which estimated that billions of dollars worth of illicit funds have poured into the province, especially in casinos and real estate.

Civil forfeiture has existed in B.C. since 2006, allowing the province to confiscate people's property without any criminal charges attached.

Forfeited assets obtained through unexplained wealth orders are redirected to community safety and crime-prevention initiatives, said Farnworth.