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Should lawyers be exempt from money laundering regulations?

Poll: Money laundering regs

Two groups representing lawyers say their profession should be excluded from any government regulations aimed at fighting money laundering in British Columbia in order to protect the confidentiality of the lawyer-client relationship.

Kevin Westell made joint closing submissions today at a public inquiry into money laundering on behalf of the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Bar Association and the Criminal Defence Advocacy Society.

He says the bar association representing 7,000 lawyers in the province is also concerned about suggestions that there is a high risk of money laundering inherent in the work of lawyers.

The province launched the inquiry after reports outlined a money laundering crisis fuelled by millions of dollars in illegal cash being funnelled through the real estate, luxury car and gambling sectors in B.C.

Westell told inquiry commissioner Austin Cullen that his ultimate recommendations could significantly affect how lawyers do their jobs and the extent to which members of the public will continue to feel confident that their dealings with lawyers would remain strictly confidential.

However, a coalition that includes the group Transparency International Canada told Cullen that lawyers, bankers and accountants should be included in any policies in order to allow for public scrutiny of how the advice of those professionals could be sought by criminal enterprises involved in money laundering.

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