Financial intelligence uncovers foreign espionage in Canada
An unnamed foreign government has been orchestrating espionage activities in Canada over the past year, according to a report tabled in Parliament Thursday.
The annual report of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada — a little-known federal agency that collects financial intelligence — says a number of individuals were suspected of circumventing Canadian export controls through companies operating in Canada and abroad.
The individuals were said to be shipping restricted materials in a way that indicated they were trying to avoid being detected.
FINTRAC's report also pointed to millions of dollars worth of "suspicious financial transactions associated with the individuals and companies." More than $35 million in transactions were made between 2002 and 2007, many of them electronic funds transfers.
"These had been ordered, through local banks, from a company located in the foreign country, to one of the companies in Canada reported to be involved in the purchase of industrial machinery," the 34-page report read.
FINTRAC didn't identify the individuals or country involved, or if the investigation led to any arrests. It noted in its report that espionage is not on the decline and, in fact, has increased in some cases.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Senator Colin Kenny said he and other officials are worried about foreign espionage.
"We've been very concerned, particularly about the Chinese," said Kenny, who chairs a committee on national security.
FINTRAC shares financial intelligence with law enforcement and CSIS when that information might help investigate cases of money laundering, terrorist activity financing or other security threats.
It said it provided intelligence for more than 200 criminal investigations in 2007-08, including the case of an international criminal gang producing and trafficking methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth. Twenty-three individuals were charged in connection with that investigation.
"I am pleased that we have been able to assist in a number of important investigations. In the coming months I have no doubt we will see our financial intelligence used in an even greater number of investigations and prosecutions," FINTRAC Director Jeanne Flemming said in a statement Thursday.
With files from the Canadian Press