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

(File image)
Vehicle collides with propane line causing explosion in Thornhill

Driver sustained severe burns, was taken to Lower Mainland in air ambulance

The plan to build a staircase to the Bench includes a channel to more easily transport bicycles up and down. (Photo courtesy City of Terrace)
Staircase to Bench subject of City grant application

Would connect lower Eby St. to upper Eby St.

The car was trapped, with its driver inside, in a ditch off Hirsch Creek Main near Onion Lake overnight Monday (Oct. 19). Oct. 20, 2020. Kitimat RCMP photo.
Man found after spending overnight stuck in car in a ditch near Onion Lake

Kitimat RCMP said the man was stuck there overnight for about 10 hours

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals. (Black Press Composite Photo)
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

BC Liberals Leader Andrew Wilkinson, BC Greens Sonia Furstenau, BC NDP John Horgan (The Canadian Press photos)
British Columbians vote in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats in the legislature, while the Greens held two seats

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Charges laid against Prince George man, 39, in drug trafficking probe

Tyler Aaron Gelowitz is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18

Most Read