There’s no wash like a “snow wash”


May 14, 2019

Today, the dog-collar market is going to lose and hip new bars are selling cocktails without booze, but first…
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How British Columbia became the money-laundering capital of the world

According to 2 recent government reports, more than $5B in dirty international money was laundered in the picturesque province of British Columbia last year.

Over the past few years, the rapid appearance of high-rolling casinos, luxury real estate developments, and luxury car dealerships in the westernmost province of Canada seemed too good to be true. 

Turns out, it was.

A housing bubble built on dirty laundry

Money laundering in BC took many forms, ranging from hockey bags stuffed full of cash to shady luxury car exports. 

But real estate was by far the dirtiest type of laundry. According to the research, 1 in 5 houses purchased in British Columbia is bought in cash — enough to bring in $151B over the past 2 decades. 

But the even crazier conundrum is that $20B worth of that money belongs to holding companies whose true owners remain secret.

How did this happen?

In BC, mortgage brokers, private lenders, and lawyers aren’t required to report transactions to Canada’s financial watchdog, FINTrac, opening up a massive loophole for anonymous foreign investors who want to dump their cash in valuable properties with no questions asked.

Across BC, hundreds of mortgages have been registered and repaid in rapid succession — a telltale sign of money laundering. In one case, a single house had 29 separate mortgages.

According to the report, most of these investments were used to “snow wash” dirty money that originated with Mexican cartels, Iranian gangs, and Chinese organized crime syndicates.

Vancouver is a town turned upside down

Housing prices there have risen 70% in the past 5 years. The local real estate market is so screwed up that college kids are moving into empty mansions and saving the foreign investors/money launderers who own them money on vacancy taxes. 

Based on the report, British Columbia’s government plans to establish a public registry to cut down on anonymous real estate purchases and revamp regulations in order to monitor financial activity more closely.

Beautiful country, ugly money
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Trump just increased tariffs on Chinese goods. Here’s what you’ll pay more for.

Last week, the Trump administration announced it would increase tariffs on some $200B worth of Chinese imports from 10% to 25%.

It’s the latest move in America’s trade war with China — and it’s likely to affect the price you pay for a variety of items, ranging from computers to toilet paper.

The full list of these goods, which can be found here, is 194 pages long and contains more than 6k individual items. A large number of them are chemicals, food (including live eels), and industrial parts. But consumer items also dot the list.

According to The New York Times, these tariff increases are likely to be passed down to consumers and could “severely disrupt” US retailers — especially small businesses.

“If the administration follows through on this threat,” David French, a senior vice president at the National Retail Federation, told the paper, “American consumers will face higher prices and US jobs will be lost.”

Should’ve bought that sledgehammer last week…
 

Boozeless bars and clear-headed cocktail companies are mixing up alcohol alternatives

With beer sales in decline, businesses are concocting booze-free drinks at nonalcoholic bars and in direct-to-consumer virgin cocktail kits.

Sobriety is suddenly… stylish?

At Getaway, a boozeless Brooklyn-based bar profiled by the BBC, clean cocktails look just like their boozy brethren — and carry similarly sobering $13 price tags.

Across the US, booze-free bars are becoming popular, and even normal bars are making money off of mocktails. Separately, startups like Kin offer craft cocktail kits that are “all bliss, no booze.” 

These companies are unabashed about re-creating an alcoholic atmosphere: Kin manufactures the “buzz without the booze,” and Listen Bar replicates “rowdy vibes” with “drinks, not draaanks.”

Replicating bar culture, without the drinking

The percentage of adult drinkers in the UK recently hit a 14-year low, and the number of people willing to pay big bucks for nonalcoholic cocktails is on the rise at high-end restaurants. 

So some of these stylishly sober startups are less focused on sobriety’s health benefits… and more motivated by market opportunity. 

“Nothing about our space says you should be sober, or you shouldn’t go around the corner to another bar and do a tequila shot after hanging out here,” Sam Thonis, the co-owner of Getaway, told the BBC.

» Shirley Temples are IN
today in biz-tory

Mark Zuckerberg was born

On this very day in 1984, the socially awkward billionaire boy wonder himself arrived on Earth… err, “was born.” Little did anyone know, 20 years later he’d bring to life the single most influential product in existence — and a pretty good movie about it, too.

Happy birthday, Zuck. We wish you were better at your job. Lord knows you have the data to optimize.

You can now buy your broccoli with Bitcoin

Yesterday, a payment company called Flexa launched an app that lets people pay for a morning cuppa with Bitcoin.

Flexa, which raised $14.1m last month, enables shoppers to spend their hard-earned cryptocurrency at stores like Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, Baskin-Robbins, and (thank the Winklevi) Petco.

A whole new way to Spedn money on Jamba Juice

Nope, that wasn’t a typo — Flexa’s app is called “Spedn.”

It works like this: Every time a shopper wants to buy a Jamba Juice, Spedn generates a QR code that, once scanned, immediately deposits the payment at the cash register. 

Then, Spedn withdraws the same amount of crypto from a user’s crypto wallet, using its own coin, called FlexaCoin, to secure and speed up the transaction.

Is Flexa ‘crypto’s Stripe’ — or is it all just hype?

Several companies — including Coinbase and the now-defunct Shift — have tried to bring crypto to stores. But sluggish withdrawal times have proved problematic.

But, by making payments first and debiting crypto accounts later, Flexa solved the problem of slow withdrawal — while exposing itself to the risk that its crypto checks won’t cash.

» Umm, cool?
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That adds up to a lot of cash saved. What do they do with it all? Convert it into coins, pile it in a giant vault, and practice their backstroke on it like a certain billionaire duck?

Nah — they use this saved income to pay for the other fees traditional banks love to charge you. Things like monthly service fees (they’ve got none), unlimited ATM fee rebates, and industry-leading interest rates (17X the average to be exact).

It’s a sales pitch that needs no further explanation. Open a Radius Hybrid account today and get your cut of the cash.

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