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Canada urged to investigate Ontario’s suspicious casino transactions

Ontario's Igaming launches today

Two former officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are urging the provincial authorities to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the substantial amount of suspicious transactions passing through Ontario’s casinos each year, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Despite recent measures implemented to combat suspicious transactions, records indicate that the dollar value of these transactions has actually increased, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Cal Chrustie, a former RCMP investigator experienced in handling complex cases involving money laundering and transnational crime, suggests that many of these cases likely involve illicit funds.

While the numbers are significant, it is challenging to determine the nature of each transaction without conducting in-depth investigations, according to Chrustie. He further highlighted the need to view potential money laundering as more than just a financial crime, as the illicit proceeds could empower criminals and pose threats to national security.

Also, Peter German, a former RCMP deputy commissioner known for his report on money laundering in B.C. casinos, emphasized the need to assess the quality and origin of transactions beyond the raw figures. He cautioned against over-reporting or underreporting and stressed the importance of regulators following up on suspicious transactions.

To combat the phenomenon, Ontario regulators have introduced new rules requiring casinos to maintain transaction logs for any business exceeding $3,000, verify the source of funds, and be vigilant for signs of money laundering. Casinos are instructed to refuse money if laundering indicators are detected.

These rules came into effect in 2022, the same year when suspicious cash transactions rose to levels surpassing the pre-pandemic period.

Meanwhile, the province of British Columbia (B.C.) already implemented similar regulations to curb the flow of suspicious cash. The implementation of these rules revealed a transnational money laundering scheme involving drug money being invested in the real estate market. This ultimately made suspicious cash transactions drop significantly from $153 million in 2015 to just $3 million in 2022.

Despite the criticism, Ontario Premier Doug Ford expressed confidence in the system, assuring that any suspicions would prompt an investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

Recently, the OPP focused on Branavan Kanapathipillai, an individual involved in cash transactions totaling millions of dollars, including $824,000 at Pickering Casino. The source of funds in Kanapathipillai’s case remains “unclear,” and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is currently investigating.

While nearly $100,000 of Kanapathipillai’s funds were seized during a purchase of chips at Fallsview Casino, he plans to contest this action in civil forfeiture, claiming that the money was legally obtained.

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