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Canada  

Going after drug money

Traffickers are exploiting Canadian money service businesses to buy deadly fentanyl from overseas and then launder the proceeds through banks and credit unions, warns the national financial intelligence agency.

The federal Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre is issuing a detailed operational alert to help businesses detect and report suspicious dealings that may be linked to illicit fentanyl, an opioid that is wreaking havoc across Canada.

The alert, which lists specific signs of fentanyl-related activity, was developed through Fintrac's analysis of intelligence in consultation with Canadian financial institutions and the RCMP.

It is intended to support a broader anti-fentanyl initiative, Project Guardian, led by Fintrac, major bank CIBC and Canadian law-enforcement agencies. CIBC is hosting a meeting of the various players Thursday in Toronto.

The opioid problem is not limited to large cities, noted Bob Kapur, deputy chief anti-money laundering officer at CIBC.

"It's everywhere, small towns as well. So we want to make sure that any police forces (that) are not yet aware of the project, or are not yet looped into what we're doing, they get involved," Kapur said in an interview.

"Obviously, CIBC and the other Canadian banks, we not only want to comply with the law in this regard, but this is the right thing to do."

Fintrac pinpoints cash linked to money laundering and terrorism by sifting through tens of millions of pieces of data annually from banks, insurance companies, securities dealers, money service businesses, real estate brokers, casinos and others.

In turn, the agency discloses resulting intelligence to partners including Canada's spy agency, the RCMP and other police services.

Financial intelligence suggests that traffickers procure fentanyl, as well as its derivatives and chemical components, from foreign sources, mainly in China, the Fintrac alert says.

Traffickers most often pay for these materials with wire transfers and money orders processed by money service businesses, but sometimes use virtual currency such as Bitcoin.

Fentanyl is typically smuggled into Canada through the postal system, then distributed through networks in a small area surrounding the arrival point, the alert says. "The laundering of the proceeds of fentanyl trafficking in Canada generally takes place through Canadian banks, caisses populaires and credit unions."

Fintrac is the first financial intelligence unit in the world to post an alert related to the lethal opioid, said Barry MacKillop, the agency's interim director.



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