With new revelations in the case of former senior RCMP intelligence official Cameron Ortis, an expert on money laundering says efforts to infiltrate various organizations in both the public and private sectors is a common practice among professional money laundering operators.
“They’re always looking for ways to infiltrate government services, such as the RCMP,” says Stephen Schneider, a professor of criminology at St. Mary’s University and co-author of the book “Money Laundering in Canada: Chasing Dirty and Dangerous Dollars.”
“Some have also tried to cultivate contacts in casinos, intelligence agencies, [and among] government officials, elected officials. The rise of money laundering projects definitely sees an attempt to corrupt officials whether in the private or public sector.”
Global News on Jan. 14 published an explosive report on the case of Ortis, who is being charged for violating the Security of Information Act based on allegations that he leaked and sold information to an international money laundering and terrorist financier network run by Pakistani national Altaf Khanani.
Part of the network, which spanned six continents, operated in Toronto and Montreal.
Arrested in Panama in September 2015, Khanani and his network are alleged to have financed terrorist groups like Hezbollah and al-Qaeda and various other criminal organizations. According to Global, Ortis allegedly offered information on the RCMP’s “special operational plans” to Khanani’s network, and also collected information from files of fellow analysts to offer to Khanani and his operatives in Canada.
“What caught my attention in [Global’s] article was the corruption but also the money service businesses that pose as legitimate companies but they’re really just engaging in the business of money laundering,” says Schneider.
“They just operate essentially as a money laundering service that launder billions and billions of dollars to groups like the Hells Angels or Mexican cartels.”
British Columbia has been particularly affected by professional money laundering in recent years, with over $7 billion having been laundered in 2018, according to investigations commissioned by the provincial government.
The Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in B.C., which began in May 2019, published an interim report in November 2020 highlighting issues that need to be addressed while offering a comprehensive review of the problem.
Particularly, it noted that “the legal and accounting sectors both have a large number of practitioners across Canada who have specialized knowledge and expertise that may be vulnerable to being exploited, wittingly or unwittingly, for illicit purposes.”
“In Canada, we have weaker laws than they do in the U.S. when it comes to this problem. We don’t have the necessary resources here to combat things like money laundering, in terms of how the RCMP have approached their programs. In the ’80s, ’90s, it might have been more of a priority, but there was a shift after 9/11 to being more focused on counterterrorism,” says Schneider.
“We see in the laundering crisis in B.C., the RCMP had very little resources up there and there was a huge money laundering case. And the police only found out really during an investigation of an underground gambling operation, and the dominoes kept falling.”
He says the Ortis case will hopefully draw more attention to the need to do more to counter the sort of corruption that money launderers try to foment to further their goals.
“What we hope to see is more focus on limiting the abilities of professional money launderers to corrupt officials in the various public or private sectors, and have a better idea when it comes to the resources to help us do so, whether it be the casinos, government officials, or the RCMP.”