A few days ago, I went through a house closing from hell. One day before the close, the buyer of my old home advised me that the money for her downpayment got stuck in an offshore investment account. My buyer did not know that the origin of any amount over $10,000 traveling across the border had to be checked and double checked, whether it came from legitimate sources or from the underworld of organized crime.
In my case, this meant finding a bridge loan in a matter of seconds. For my buyer, it meant paying interest on it. But, in the grand scheme of things, this is good — it looks like someone in Canada was not asleep at the wheel — for a change!
Apparently, laundering money in Canada is on the rise, especially if it is terrorism related. Last year, Canada’s anti-money laundering agency fished out more than $2.0 billion worth of suspicious transactions, out of which more than $180.0 million were used to finance threats to national security. It is even scarier to find out that both figures doubled in comparison to 2004.
Perhaps this is why Canada has become the new and permanent hub for an international agency fighting money-laundering and terrorism financing activities. The Egmont Group fights money laundering crimes in over a hundred countries, and it operates similarly to Interpol. This decision landed Canada at the thick and thin of international attention, particularly after the discovery of home- grown and dirty-money-funded terrorist threats.
Considering that Canada is a complex financial place, it comes as no surprise that the country has garnered much interest from all kinds of money launderers. There are three common methods of money laundering:
— The first are prepaid cash cards, which can be used at any ATM in the world and represent an anonymous way to transfer money from one country to another.
— There are also the so-called “no-name” bank machines, which function outside the known global ATM networks, such as “Plus” or “Cirrus.”
— And finally, there are diamonds, which are often described as the “currency” of criminals.
Although anti-money laundering laws have made me go through one heck of a house closing, I still like the idea that watchdogs are gathering here in Canada. I live in a country of very tolerant and accepting people, which criminals often confuse with being naïve and ignorant. Well, once The Egmont Group fires up, coming to Canada to launder money will be the equivalent of trying to rob a bank across the street from the police station — stupid and useless.