Anti-money laundering agency warns casinos to watch gamers playing with bank drafts

Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, known as Fintrac, issues operational alert

Canada’s anti-money laundering agency is warning casinos to carefully eye customers who pay for their gaming with bank drafts — the latest method of choice for criminals trying to disguise dirty money.

The federal Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, known as Fintrac, says in an operational alert issued today that cash is falling out of favour in illicit casino transactions due to intense media and government scrutiny.

Instead, criminals are opting for the liquidity and quasi-anonymity of bank drafts, Fintrac’s recent analysis of suspicious casino-related transactions shows.

Professional money launderers are constantly adapting their methods, Fintrac director Nada Semaan said in an interview.

“They will always be looking at different ways to do it, and our job is to be a step ahead of them and figure that out,” she said.

“We can’t stop everybody, but we are working extremely hard on this and we are committed to doing more.”

Fintrac tries to zero in on cash linked to terrorism and money laundering by sifting through millions of pieces of information annually from banks, insurance companies, securities dealers, money service businesses, real estate brokers, casinos and others.

Overall, the centre disclosed 2,276 pieces of intelligence to police and security agencies such as the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service last year.

Fintrac is publishing the latest alert as part of Project Athena, an RCMP-led public-private partnership aimed at disrupting money-laundering activity in British Columbia and across Canada. The effort is modelled on previous initiatives targeting the fentanyl trade, romance fraud and human trafficking.

Semaan plans to discuss the alert Tuesday at a Fintrac forum in Ottawa intended to bolster co-operation against money laundering in the gaming sector.

ALSO READ: Large cash purchases, ‘lifestyle audits’ to fight money laundering gain support in B.C.

The centre says it has made more than 30 financial intelligence disclosures so far in relation to Project Athena.

The alert — and a list of signs that dirty money is being washed using casinos — was developed through the analysis of Fintrac’s financial intelligence in collaboration with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in B.C.

B.C. launched a public inquiry into money laundering in May after a series of independent reviews revealed that billions of dollars were being laundered through the province’s casinos, real estate market and other sectors.

Based on the reports it has received, Fintrac suspects many of the people involved in suspicious casino-related transactions were money mules who moved crime proceeds, wittingly or unwittingly, on behalf of a money launderer.

READ MORE: $50,000 reward offered for B.C. man wanted in international money laundering scheme

The first type commonly reported their occupation as “student” or simply “unemployed,” the alert says. “Their bank accounts demonstrated in-and-out activity, with a high volume of cash deposits from various unknown sources, which were then used to purchase bank drafts payable to third parties or casinos.”

The centre says the second type of money mule often reported their occupation as “homemaker.” Their bank accounts typically had a lot of cash deposits from unknown sources, wire transfers from third parties or trading companies, the purchase or redemption of various investments and casino-gaming activity.

Fintrac is advising casinos to scrutinize patrons who:

  • Deposit a high volume of bank drafts to a gaming-fund account or who regularly use bank drafts as a form of gaming buy-in;
  • Are accompanied to a casino by someone subject to a gaming ban;
  • Live in a jurisdiction subject to currency-control restrictions or sanctions and have no local ties to family or businesses.

The centre has also compiled a list of possible tell-tale signs to help banks and other financial institutions detect illegal casino-related dealings.

In one scenario, a client’s account is funded by various means, such as cash deposits, casino cheques, wire transfers from trading companies, or investment redemptions such as Guaranteed Investment Certificates. The funds are then largely depleted through credit-card payments, account transfers or transactions involving casinos.

In another revealing pattern, a client engages in circular activity by depositing casino cheques, then purchasing bank drafts that are ultimately used at one or more casinos. Soon after, casino cheques — whose memo indicates that the funds are not the result of casino winnings — are deposited back into the bank account.

Some financial institutions and casinos have already taken action by adding identifying information on bank drafts and requiring casino patrons to provide a source-of-funds receipt for gaming buy-ins over $10,000, Fintrac notes.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tourism Wells Gray looks at silver linings

Domestic tourism and pipeline workers may compensate for some of the lost tourism dollars this year

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Back in Time

Historical Perspective

RV habitation once again a discussion topic for TNRD

“I don’t imagine for a moment that we’ve heard the last of the RV issue”

B.C. mom’s drug-pricing petition on behalf of son garners thousands of signatures

Petition geared to gaining access to new medicines drew support of Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl

‘Paralyzed by fear’: B.C. woman details anxiety, grief at Italian relief hospital

Sheila Vicic spent two months in Italy as the country grappled with COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

CAMH survey looks at binge-drinking, financial anxiety during COVID

Alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism for those whose careers may have been sidelined due to the pandemic

Half of Canadians say governments are hiding something about COVID-19: poll

More than a third of people believe the virus was created in a lab

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Most Read