Iranian-Canadian neighborhood leaders and anti-money laundering specialists say Canada is failing to police the explosive development of Toronto-based underground foreign money exchanges which might be laundering drug cash, financing overseas terrorist teams, and supporting the Iranian regime.
Kaveh Shahrooz, a lawyer and human rights activist, and Reza Banai, a Toronto businessman and former president of the Iranian Canadian Congress, stated particulars of a World Information investigation into cash laundering within the Toronto foreign money exchanges spotlight a disaster that was already acknowledged within the Iranian neighborhood.
The investigation revealed that alleged RCMP mole Cameron Ortis is accused of promoting RCMP operations plans to the transnational legal community of Altaf Khanani, a cash laundering kingpin with hyperlinks to overseas terrorist organizations and the Iranian regime.
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Khanani’s international community included various Toronto foreign money merchants and laundered billions yearly for worldwide drug cartels and terror teams together with Hezbollah, in line with U.S. authorities investigations and statements from the U.S. Treasury Division on sanctions.
“For years activists have been attempting to attract the eye of Canadian officers that cash is pouring into the nation and persons are below risk,” Shahrooz stated. “Hopefully (the Ortis case) ought to drive dwelling the purpose that it is a severe disaster. The Iranian neighborhood must be protected against worldwide cash laundering and terrorist networks with ties to Iran.”
Ortis faces a trial on quite a few data safety fees. His lawyer has not responded to repeated requests for remark from World Information.
Banai stated the RCMP and Canadian Income Company have to crack down on “a mushroom of development of overseas alternate shops” and suspicious transactions in Toronto.
“I’m involved in regards to the quantity of the alternate transfers from Iran with none monitoring by the Canadian authorities,” Banai stated. “As a result of we all know the Iranian financial system is managed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (in Iran) and plenty of legal cash is infiltrating into the Iranian financial system, in lots of means.”
Sources together with former RCMP anti-money laundering skilled Garry Clement stated since 2010 — when worldwide banking sanctions have been positioned on Iran — Toronto has turn out to be an essential conduit for underground banking by way of the Center East. The foreign money outlets concerned assist the Iranian regime evade sanctions that limit worldwide banking transactions.
One Toronto foreign money dealer with information of RCMP investigations stated that earlier than 2010, there have been solely about 5 foreign money outlets in Toronto’s Iranian neighborhood. However now inside a number of blocks of Steeles Avenue and Yonge Avenue in Toronto, there are over 70 foreign money exchanges, in line with the supply. That is the place the RCMP raided the foreign money store of Farzam Mehdizadeh in 2016. Mehdizadeh was charged for allegedly laundering $100 million in Montreal and Toronto in a single yr.
Probes of Khanani and Mehdizadeh have been associated to the RCMP drug-money laundering investigation known as Undertaking Collector.
In 2019, the RCMP introduced fees towards 17 Canadian suspects in a “huge worldwide cash laundering community” related with Iran, China, Dubai, Lebanon, Mexico and Colombia.
Police alleged two of these charged, Nader Gramian-Nik, 57, of Vaughan, Ont., and Mohamad Jaber, 52, of Laval, Que., are the kingpins of the drug-trafficking cells focused in Undertaking Collector.
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Operatives in Montreal and Toronto have been gathering money for drug cartels and laundering the funds by way of various Toronto foreign money exchanges, police stated. And the funds have been typically wire transferred to Dubai — a buying and selling zone utilized by the Iranian regime to evade sanctions — and transferred for drug exports in Mexico and Colombia.
However a foreign money buying and selling supply instructed World Information large drug cash laundering associated to Undertaking Collector networks has continued unimpeded by way of Toronto foreign money outlets, regardless of the RCMP’s investigations.
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Clement instructed World Information he has recognized about 50 foreign money outlets within the Yonge and Steeles space. He stated outlets are sometimes hidden in jewelry shops or again places of work within the space’s strip malls. And he believes a few of these foreign money exchanges are usually not reporting transactions to Fintrac, Canada’s anti-money laundering company.
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Clement stated he has repeatedly shared his personal investigation findings with Ottawa. He shared a letter with World Information that he despatched to former Finance Minister Invoice Morneau and present Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in 2017, warning of the “enlargement of the underground marketplace for Iranian transfers.”
Clement stated he believes international cash launderers like Khanani have turned Canada right into a hub for Iranian state-sponsored terror financing due to Canada’s lax enforcement.
“You must have weapons and transfer cash to hold out terror assaults. So that you want an Altaf Khanani who has this monetary community, principally with the attain of a big-five Canadian financial institution, with a view to function,” Clement stated.
“And Canada is exhibiting itself to be a weak hyperlink in implementing towards cash laundering. As a result of what we’re seeing in Toronto is similar to the underground banking we’re seeing on the west coast with cash laundering, and the way it pertains to the regime in China. In Toronto, it pertains to the regime in Iran.”
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The RCMP wouldn’t affirm or deny estimates of as much as 70 foreign money buying and selling outlets in north Toronto, a few of that are believed to be concerned in underground transfers with Iran, in line with Clement and different sources.
“The RCMP doesn’t regulate or monitor cash exchanges subsequently, we couldn’t validate or converse to the variety of associated cash companies companies,” Sgt. Lucie Lapointe stated.
Lapointe stated the RCMP has “specialised monetary crime assets throughout the nation” that obtain intelligence and decide “whether or not a monetary legal investigation is warranted.”
However critics, together with Clement, say the RCMP has little potential to research worldwide cash laundering, and selected to disband its Ontario monetary crimes unit in 2020 regardless of growing threats in Canada from organizations like Khanani’s.
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In the meantime, in response to questions in regards to the estimated variety of foreign money exchanges in Toronto that may very well be facilitating underground banking to Iran, spokesman Darren Gibb said, “Fintrac doesn’t actively keep information on the communities served by cash companies companies.” Presently, there are 1,943 cash companies registered with Fintrac in Canada, he stated.
However Gibb cited a 2019 “operational alert” from Fintrac that claims underground banks in Canada, which informally switch funds between international locations, are “typically exploited in an effort to evade sanctions, state foreign money management restrictions, and to facilitate legal actions akin to cash laundering.”
“Trying the opposite method”
Each Banai and Shahrooz stated they consider pro-Iranian regime teams are growing their political and monetary affect in Canada via underground banking. But regardless of repeated warnings from the Iranian neighborhood, Ottawa appears to be turning a blind eye.
Banai stated that in Toronto business actual property, tales of enterprise folks asking others to simply accept funds for items and companies with luggage of money have gotten frequent. He stated he suspects Ottawa is ignoring suspicious worldwide transactions as a result of the federal government desires to see funds flowing into Canada’s financial system. However underground banking is inflicting dwelling costs to rise and squeezing out authentic companies in Toronto, he stated.
“Completely, the underground banking and foreign money exchanges are impacting the true property costs,” Banai stated. “The primary risk is that is impacting the lives of on a regular basis folks.”
And Shahrooz stated within the Iranian neighborhood “there are well-known circumstances of latest arrivals in Canada with recognized or suspected ties to the regime, and huge sums of cash.”
“The concern is these with cash are capable of purchase their method in with investments and the Canadian authorities is wanting the opposite method,” Shahrooz stated. “We fear that Hezbollah and the Iranian regime is making inroads in Canada. And they’re concerned in intimidation of the neighborhood and likewise skewing the general public debate in Canada.”
Each Banai and Shahrooz stated they’ve acknowledged that rich pro-Iranian regime businessmen in Toronto seem to more and more take neighborhood management positions and search to fund political candidates.
Banai stated he thinks Canadian political events may very well be influenced by political fundraisers who’re concerned within the Toronto foreign money buying and selling enterprise.
Beforehand, World Information reported that foreign money alternate proprietor Alireza Onghaei donated $240 to MP Majid Jowhari’s Richmond Hill Liberal using affiliation on Dec. 3, 2019.
On Nov. 27 and 28, 2019, Onghaei was interviewed by the Canadian Safety Intelligence Service, which alleged he had admitted to “aiding the federal government of Iran within the clandestine wiring of monies into Canada” by way of Dubai.
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Onghaei denied any wrongdoing within the case, and no fees have been laid towards him.
And the MP stated he was “not conscious of the intense allegations” till they have been reported by World Information.
“Had I recognized about them, I’d not have related myself with Mr. Onghaei,” he stated. “I denounce any overseas interference in Canada.”
In one other instance, World Information has discovered that one of many RCMP’s targets within the Altaf Khanani investigation is a Toronto foreign money dealer concerned in main actual property growth and important political donor actions in Ontario.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was requested to answer issues about underground banking from Iran and former warnings, such because the 2017 letter from Garry Clement.
“Cash laundering, terrorist financing and tax evasion proceed to signify a risk to the security and safety of all Canadians, and hurt the integrity and stability of our financial system,” a response from the ministry stated.
“That’s the reason the federal government has made important investments in new initiatives to strengthen Canada’s Anti-Cash Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Regime.”
In December, Public Security Minister Invoice Blair introduced his authorities is funding almost $100 million for brand spanking new anti-money laundering items in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec by the tip of March.
Blair’s announcement got here after B.C. Legal professional Normal David Eby criticized Ottawa for failing to offer anti-money laundering assets promised by the Liberals within the final federal election.
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