Ever wonder where the money you take out of ATMs is coming from? If Winnipeg police and RCMP allegations are right, some of it could be coming from drug traffickers.
Recently, RCMP officers seized six ATM machines believed to be used by high-level drug traffickers to launder money.
Officers allege kilograms of cocaine were being smuggled into the province from British Columbia, and so far, at least 14 arrests have been made.
The six machines implicated in the case were taken out of four local bars, and while RCMP wouldn’t comment on the specific case, they said using the machines for money laundering is something that does happen.
And with 38,000 privately owned machines in Canada, it isn’t easy to keep an eye on all of them.
“It’s difficult to try and keep track of the many ATMs that are out there,” said Brent Taylor, an RCMP inspector who works with the federal serious and organized crime intake and assessment unit.
The machines RCMP are concerned with are “white label” or “no name” ATMS, meaning they aren’t attached to a financial institution.
The cash machines are privately owned, and can be used by organized crime rings to try and cover up profits from illegal activity.
“The idea is that they would take the dirty money and put it into the ATM and ‘clean it’ through the use of the ATM, legitimizing it as the money returned by financial institutions,” said Taylor, who deals with drugs, proceeds of crime and money laundering.
Interac officials say the company has a number of checks and balances in place to make sure all of its privately owned machines are operating within the law.
“If they're connected to our network, they must follow the rules,” said Interac Assocation’s Caroline Hubberstey. “We have requirements in place. We have security checks that must be followed. We have audit trails that must be followed, and we have measures in place to do secondary audits if necessary.”
But RCMP still believe ATMs are falling into the wrong hands.
And in 2007, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada expressed concerns about the machines being used by criminal entities, and those concerns still exist today.
So far, Quebec is the only province in Canada that has regulated the sale of private ATMs.
As of 2013, anyone who wants to own or operate an ATM would first have to go through a criminal background check and also explain where the cash would be coming from.
In Winnipeg’s most recent sweep, a man named Oliver Banayos was arrested and is now facing multiple drugs and weapons charges, including conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and trafficking.
Banayos’s sister, Carol, is the sole director of the company linked to the white-label ATMs that were seized. The address she used to run the company was her parent's.
Until the summer of 2013, Banayos’s sister worked as a human resources consultant for the province.
So far, the Province of Manitoba has no plans to bring in additional security measures for ATMs.