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Trudeau urged to review status of Liberal MP after law firm tied to alleged ‘drug boss’

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NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus and fellow Vancouver-area NDP MPs sent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a letter on Thursday following a Global News investigation that revealed the law firm of Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido brokered a secretive and controversial real estate deal with an alleged organized crime kingpin.

On Tuesday, Global News reported a lawyer at Peschisolido’s former Richmond law firm facilitated a “bare trust” joint venture that involved Kwok Chung Tam — a man who, between 1991 and 2014, was accused by law enforcement officials of being a “brazen” loan shark, heroin importer and alleged “heavyweight” of the Big Circle Boys.

The deal was struck in October 2011 while Tam was still serving a conditional sentence for a 2010 marijuana drug trafficking conviction, court records show. The deal allowed Tam to conceal his ownership stake in a $7.8-million land purchase in Coquitlam, B.C., and, according to financial crime experts, should have raised “huge red flags” about potential money laundering.

Now opposition MPs are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to investigate and to review Peschisolido’s membership in the Liberal caucus.

WATCH: NDP Leader grills Trudeau over ‘bare trust’ real estate deal facilitated by Richmond MP’s law firm

“Real or suspected corruption has real human costs, and your government needs to immediately show Canadians in British Columbia and across the country that you have the courage to fight for them and to deal with this crisis,” wrote Angus and three other Vancouver-area MPs in their letter to Trudeau.

“Mr. Peschisolido clearly owes his constituents a full explanation as soon as possible,” they wrote.

The letter also raised the broader issue of money laundering in B.C. and concerns over links between organized crime and the province’s growing opioid crisis.

“On your part, you should review Mr. Peschisolido’s continued membership in the Liberal caucus,” the letter said.

Peschisolido has denied any knowledge of the 2011 Tam deal and says he has never dealt with Tam in any capacity. He also says he voluntarily chose to wind down his law firm in December 2017.

Tam, meanwhile, has denied any allegations of gang membership.

In a written statement, his lawyer said claims of organized crime and gang involvement have never been proven in court or any immigration hearings.

Despite the many allegations levelled against Tam, he has only been convicted three times. He was convicted for theft under $1,000 in 1992 — for which he received a pardon in 1997 — and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and possession of narcotics in 2010.

Questions about potential money laundering

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pressured Trudeau in the House of Commons on Tuesday about money laundering in B.C. and asked whether he had spoken with Peschisolido about the secretive financial transaction.

Trudeau avoided answering the question directly but insisted his government is fighting money laundering by increasing funding to the RCMP, Fintrac and the Canada Revenue Agency by more than $160 million.

“We are committed to a robust regime to combat money laundering and terrorist financing,” Trudeau said.

WATCH: Conservatives press government on Liberal MP’s law firm being taken over by B.C. Law Society

Peter Kent, the Conservative MP for Thornhill, Ont., asked during Tuesday’s question period whether Peschisolido had ever lobbied members of cabinet on money laundering, bare trust deals, mortgage rules or Fintrac reporting requirements.

Organized Crime Reduction and Border Security Minister Bill Blair responded, saying the government has reversed cuts to the RCMP’s anti-money laundering efforts made by the previous Conservative government and is working with lawyers to “further explore how the legal community can address the issue of legal professionals being used to facilitate money laundering and terrorism.”

Peschisolido denies knowledge of bare trust deal

For his part, Peschisolido maintains he had no knowledge of the 2011 bare trust deal and that all lawyers at his former firm operated “completely independently.”

“I’ve never been involved in a bare trust agreement,” Peschisolido said. “If you were to ask me how it works, I wouldn’t know.”

WATCH: Liberal MP says he has no knowledge of ‘bare trust’ real estate deal facilitated for alleged ‘drug boss’

“During my time with Peschisolido and Associates, I was not involved in any ‘bare trust’ real estate deals and did not deal with Mr. Kwok Chung Tam in any capacity,” he said in a statement released Tuesday. “The lawyers who were at Peschisolido and Associates were there as independent contractors and oversaw and managed their own files independently.”

Peschisolido also said he voluntarily chose to “wind down” his law firm to dedicate his time and efforts to serving his constituents.

“While practicing [sic], I conducted myself at all times with professionalism and integrity and always followed all Law Society rules and guidelines. I fully support our Government’s significant efforts to combat money laundering in all its forms, including in the real estate sector, and the steps taken to strengthen beneficial ownership transparency by ensuring that corporations maintain this information in their records,” he said.


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Ottawa announces new funding to combat online child abuse

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Ottawa has announced $22 million in funding to fight online child abuse.

Noting that police-reported incidents of child pornography in Canada increased by 288 per cent between 2010 and 2017, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the announcement Tuesday.

It follows a London meeting last week that focused on the exploitation of children between Goodale and his counterparts from the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, collectively known as the Five Eyes intelligence group.

Major internet companies, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, were also at the meeting and agreed to a set of rules the members of the group proposed to remove child pornography from the internet quicker.

On Tuesday, Goodale warned internet companies they had to be better, faster and more open when in comes to fighting child abuse on line.

In this Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 photo, detectives use the Cellebrite system to extract information from cellphones at the State Police facility in Hamilton Township, N.J. “Operation Safety Net,” the results of which were announced in December, netted 79 people suspected of exploiting children. (Thomas P. Costello/Asbury Park Press/Canadian Press)

“If human harm is done, if a child is terrorized for the rest of their life because of what happened to them on the internet, if there are other damages and costs, then maybe the platform that made that possible should bear the financial consequences,” Goodale said.

The government plan includes $2.1 million to intensify engagement with digital industry to develop new tools online and support effective operating principles, $4.9 million for research, public engagement, awareness and collaboration with non-governmental organizations and $15.25 million to internet child exploitation units in provincial and municipal police forces across the country.

Goodale said the strategy recognizes that technology is “increasingly facilitating the easy borderless access to vast volumes of abhorrent images.”

That, he said, makes investigations increasingly complex,

“This is a race where the course is always getting longer and more complicated and advancing into brand new areas that hadn’t been anticipated five years ago or a year ago or even a week ago,” Goodale said.

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Gas prices expected to dip in Ottawa

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If you can wait an extra day to fill up the gas tank, your bank account might thank you.

Roger McKnight of Enpro is predicting a five cent dip in gas prices Wednesday night at midnight.

This comes after a four cent drop this past Friday, just ahead of the August long weekend.

McKnight said the reason for the drop, both last week and this week, is due to comments made by US President Donald Trump. 

He says after the drop, the price will be, on average, 118.9 cents/litre in the Ottawa region.

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Oka asks Ottawa to freeze Mohawk land deal, send RCMP to Kanesatake

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The town of Oka is asking the federal and provincial governments to slap a moratorium on a proposed land grant to the local Mohawk community in Kanesatake and to establish an RCMP detachment on the First Nations territory to deal with illegal cannabis sales outlets.

The requests were contained in two resolutions adopted Tuesday night by the Oka town council.

The administration of Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon held its first public meeting since the start of the controversy that pitted the town council against the Kanesatake band council over a decision by a local promoter to give local lands to the Mohawk community.

The three resolutions are addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Quebec Premier François Legault’s government and the Kanesatake band council led by Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon.

As each resolution was read into the record, Quevillon stressed that the town of Oka was only looking to live in peaceful cohabitation with the Mohawk community.

The town also called upon Ottawa to establish a consultation process that would take into account the concerns of residents in Oka and  Kanesatake.

Quevillon’s administration also wants access to the plans detailing what lands are at the centre of negotiations between the federal government and the Mohawk community for purchase, suggesting the talks are simply a disguised form of expropriation.

“They’re giving money to (the Mohawks) to buy our land and annex it to their territory,” Quevillon said.

Despite its demands, the Oka council adopted an official statement addressed to the Kanesatake band council saying the town’s population wanted dialogue and peaceful cohabitation, with Quevillon citing the 300 years of close links between the two communities.

During the council meeting’s question period, some residents suggested that the council deal with other groups that say they are speaking for Kanesatake, including Mohawk traditionalists. Mayor Quevillon replied that the town would only deal with the band council and did so out of respect for Grand Chief Simon.

The mayor also argued that the RCMP, a federal police force, was best suited to be deployed in Kanesatake, where it would ensure the law would be respected, particularly on the issue of illegal cannabis shops.

Quevillon contended such a deployment was the only way for both communities to work together toward their mutual economic development.

Meanwhile, the apology Grand Chief Simon has said he is expecting from Quevillon for remarks he made earlier this summer about the Mohawk community in Kanesatake does not appear to be coming any time soon.

Asked by a resident if he would apologize, Quevillon left the answer to those citizens who attended the meeting, the vast majority of whom replied, “no.”

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