Suspected terrorism-tainted cash cases on the rise
Canada's financial intelligence agency pinpointed more than 100 transactions that may have involved terrorism-tainted cash last year — part of a record number of disclosures to police and spy services.
In its annual report released Wednesday, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre says it passed along information about 777 dubious dealings in 2010-11, the most in its history.
Of these, 626 were related to suspected money laundering, while 103 concerned possible terrorist activity or other threats to Canadian security.
Finally, 48 may have involved both financial support of terrorists and the laundering of illicit cash -- a process that involves converting the proceeds of crime into another form, such as stocks or property, to disguise the money trail.
FinTRAC, as the organization is known, disclosed information about the questionable transactions to agencies including the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and foreign counterparts.
One case concerned a large international money-laundering ring tied to drug trafficking and terrorist financing, says the report tabled in Parliament. Few details of the case were provided in keeping with the secretive nature of FinTRAC's work.
However, the agency assessed a number of intelligence reports that connected various individuals in the drug-trafficking group to a known terrorist organization, the annual report says.
The total 151 transactions that may have involved terrorist activity represents the highest number of extremism-related cases singled out by the agency in one year.
It underscores the evolution of FinTRAC in the years following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks from an agency that focused solely on money laundering into one with a broader mandate.
As a result, a sign in the agency's Ottawa lobby that used to say Taking the Profit Out of Organized Crime now reads Connecting the Money to the Crime.
"Money launderers and those engaged in terrorist activity financing are constantly resourceful in moving illegal funds, frequently passing them through a dozen or more institutions to cover their tracks," says the report.
Federal legislation requires banks, money transfer services, life-insurance companies, casinos and others to provide information to FinTRAC. The agency's computers and analysts sift through reports on suspicious transactions, large cash dealings and casino disbursements.
FinTRAC also receives reports of electronic funds transfers of $10,000 or more.
"These have proved crucial to uncovering suspected terrorist financing, and play a part in about 90 per cent of terrorism-related disclosures," says the report. "International funds transfers have also shed light on organized crime that operates globally."
FinTRAC director Jeanne Flemming was unavailable for an interview.
In a message in the annual report, she says that in "too many other jurisdictions, financial intelligence is both undervalued and underfunded.
"I have argued at a number of conferences that it is vital for financial intelligence to take its rightful place alongside traditional human and signals intelligence."
Flemming says a priority is integrating FinTRAC even more closely with the other players in the security-intelligence world. This is in keeping with a recommendation to improve intelligence sharing made by the recent commission of inquiry into the 1985 Air India bombing, she noted.