Ottawa links $35 million in cash transfers to terrorists
Date: Tuesday, March 30 2004
Topic: Canadian News
Canada's anti-money laundering centre uncovered $35 million in suspected terrorist financing in the first nine months of the fiscal year, outstripping the tally for the entire previous year.
The amount reflects the total detected by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre from April through December 2003, forming the basis of 29 case files passed to police or intelligence officials for further investigation.
The figures obtained by The Canadian Press are the latest indication that dangerous organizations continue to try to use Canada's financial institutions as conduits for bankrolling terrorist acts.
Fintrac, as the federal centre is known, identified 25 cases of suspected terrorist financing involving $22 million in all of fiscal 2002-03.
"We're already ahead of where we were over the full-year period last year," centre spokesman Peter Lamey said in an interview.
Fintrac collects and analyses a steady stream of reports from banks, trust companies, insurance firms, accountants, casinos, lawyers and money service businesses as part of Canada's efforts to crack down on criminal efforts to hide dirty cash.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, focused attention on the reality that terrorist groups, not just mobsters and gangs, use whatever means they can to disguise and move funds around the globe.
In June 2002, the Ottawa-based Fintrac's role was expanded to include detection of funds that might be used to finance bombings, assassinations and other acts of politically motivated violence.
The centre's analysts use advanced computer software to sift through reports and highlight patterns of concern that might point to illicit movements of money.
The agency says terrorist financing may involve money raised from legitimate sources, such as personal donations and profits from businesses and charitable organizations, as well as from criminal activities, such as the drug trade, the smuggling of weapons and other goods, fraud, kidnapping and extortion.
Should Fintrac have reasonable grounds to suspect financial transactions are linked to terrorism, the agency discloses the case information to the RCMP and, if there is a threat to national security, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
"In many instances it would go to both to RCMP and to CSIS," Lamey said.
He declined to elaborate on the 29 terror-related cases identified so far this fiscal year, including any countries that might be involved in suspect money transfers.
However, Fintrac has previously noted that funds with likely connections to terrorism are moved out of Canada through traditional banking centres to countries with major financial hubs -- likely in an effort to conceal the money's final destination.
Lamey attributes the increase in cases disclosed to authorities, at least in part, to the growing volume of reports the centre processes -- expected to be well above two million this year.
A wide variety of business transactions, from cross-border currency transfers of $10,000 or more to large winnings at casinos, now fall under the regime and must be reported to Fintrac.
"The flow and the amount of information we have to work from in order to do our analysis has gone up. So that's driving this to some degree," Lamey said. "And we're getting better at what we do."
But he added the task of ferreting out suspicious dealings remains a challenge.
"The streams and volumes of transactions are very large, and the thing that we're looking for is clandestine."
Jim Bronskill | Canadian Press