The RCMP is investing millions to disrupt money launderers and it is implementing new teams and approaches to do the job.
With every organized-crime investigation there is always this fact: the money is always there, " says RCMP Insp. Jonathan Ko, who's in charge of Ontario's Integrated Money Laundering Investigative Team, established earlier this year. "
And if the criminals want to use it, they have to make dirty money clean. "
Whether they're making money from illicit drugs, weapons or a countless number of fraud scams, criminals need to launder their proceeds of crime so they can use them without drawing the attention of law-enforcement.
Putting a number on the amount of money laundered in Canada has proven difficult because of the nature and secrecy of the activity. But a 2019 report – Combatting Money Laundering in BC Real Estate – estimated $46.7 billion was laundered in Canada in 2018.
You're following something you don't know a lot about and you have to figure out where it's going, " says Ko, who's based in Toronto.
Tracking that money trail is a complex and time-consuming task that includes specialized skills, such as forensic accounting, to counter criminals' use of today's advanced technologies, the dark web and cryptocurrency.
Often police would start pursuing the money trail at the end of a major investigation, a pattern the RCMP is changing.
My vision for this team is to become project based rather than chasing the money well into the investigation or post-conviction, " says Ko. "
I want the team to develop intelligence and work it into something substantial where we can dismantle criminal organizations and professional money laundering networks. "
That's because the impact of laundering vast sums of money can cause real harm.
It's not just a victimless crime, " says Megan Nettleton, an acting supervisor with Financial Crime, Federal Policing Criminal Operations (FPCO) in Ottawa.
She says laundered money is used to fund continued organized crime activity while also distorting property values in some of Canada's largest cities.
Those money laundering efforts "
help clean large sums of money that can be used to support criminal, and even terrorist activity abroad," says Nettleton, noting professional money launderers see Canada as a safe and secure place to clean their funds.
The RCMP announced last year it was investing almost $20 million over five years in the divisional money laundering teams, also based in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec.
The Ontario team is currently staffed with five RCMP investigators and there are plans to staff positions with employees from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Seized Property Management Directorate and the Forensic Accounting Management Group.
Nettleton, who is leading the development of the RCMP's strategy to tackle professional money launderers on behalf of the Canadian Integrated Response to Organized Crime (CIROC), says the integrated approach will help teams move more swiftly to identify leads for RCMP investigators to pursue.
These teams will develop knowledge and expertise over time in what it takes to prosecute money laundering operations by building their own ecosystem — by having everyone in the same room who can help, " she says. "
Ultimately I'd like to see them leading the way in the fight against money launderers across the country. "