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Putting stock in partnerships

Montreal Stock Exchange building.

The Joint Securities Intelligence Unit is responsible for gathering intelligence to help further financial crime investigations in Quebec, many of which are linked to the Montreal Stock Exchange.

RCMP forms joint intelligence team

By Sigrid Forberg

White-collar criminals in the province of Quebec have a new group of specialized investigators and analysts to contend with.

Comprised of two investigators, an analyst and a public servant from the RCMP and an investigator and analyst each from the Autorité de marchés financiers (AMF) and the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), the Joint Securities Intelligence Unit (JSIU) is an equal partnership between the three agencies created to combat economic crimes in Quebec.

Setting the table

The AMF, which is responsible for overseeing the province’s financial markets, found itself increasingly faced with situations of overlapping interests or the same targets as law enforcement. Reaching out to the SQ and RCMP, they voiced a need to encourage collaboration and communication among their three agencies.

The JSIU, born from that concept, is responsible for gathering intelligence to help further financial crime investigations in the province. Once all the intelligence is packaged, it then goes through the approval and consideration of the orientation committee and then the director’s committee, which then assign the case to one of the three agencies for completion.

“We put on the table the names of the people who are subject to being investigated and we determine who’s going to be investigating,” says Philip Rousseau, the director of economic crime at the AMF and a member of the orientation committee. “If the RCMP is doing it, we can collaborate, we can help out, then we can step back and let it go.”

Another aspect of the mandate is to detect and prevent fraud crimes in Quebec. By collaborating, not only does the unit prevent overlapping investigations into the same crimes or offenders, it’s also able to proactively collect intelligence, develop human sources and generate leads — something regular investigators don’t typically have the time for.

“We take pieces of information and we put the puzzle together and we get a clear picture of what’s being done and who’s doing what,” says Cpl. Dominic Milotte, who has been leading the unit for the last two years. “And then, once investigators start on the case, they know where they’re going and they don’t waste time.”

In 2012, the unit started 97 files. One third were opened intelligence files, while the remainder were the intelligence files actually shared between agencies. Rousseau likens the JSIU’s work to setting the table so the investigators can dig in without having to worry about some of the potentially time-consuming prep work.

Clearing the cases

Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that officially binds the team, all three organizations share the responsibility and authority equally. The MOU also allows them to share in other ways.

Because the province’s two policing agencies have access to provincial and federal criminal intelligence databases, they’re able to offer one another insight into information that may otherwise be inaccessible.

“Some of the cases we get, it’s not clear-cut whether it’s criminal or civil. It might not even be clear-cut for the police,” says Rousseau. “The best thing this unit does is they get people talking to each other to get a better view of each case from a whole variety of sources.”

Milotte adds that all the RCMP members have training and experience in criminal intelligence investigations. But that’s not enough on its own to handle these kinds of investigations, which Captain Michel Hamelin, the officer in charge of the SQ’s organized financial crimes investigation section, says can be very different from other types of crime.

“The biggest difference is often the sheer complexity of fraud schemes,” says Hamelin. “We rely on the experience of financial crime intelligence officers to gather relevant information and, more importantly, understand how the crimes are being committed.”

Each member of the unit brings something to the table that is unique to their experience, education and organization’s focus. And that’s the crux of why the files opened by the JSIU have been so successful so far, explains Milotte.

“We can’t work in silos. It used to be like that a couple years back, everyone was protecting their intelligence but not sharing,” says Milotte. “The value of putting all this together is that we’re making stronger investigations, stronger intelligence probes, and in the end, because you get the whole picture, your investigations are more successful.”