The Hamilton-Niagara branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has uncovered a massive money-laundering scheme involving casinos in Niagara and the Greater Toronto Area and money coming from drug trafficking and marijuana cultivation.
Over $2.3 Million Laundered Through Casinos
As a result of a sophisticated investigation, which started as far back as 2017, five people – Zu Wen Chang, Lin Li, Bo Hai Chen, En Quan Chen and Jian Hua Toa- have been charged with a total of 29 offenses, including money-laundering, illegal sale of marijuana and owning property acquired through crime. With the invaluable help from the Ontario Provincial Police and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the RCMP busted a very sophisticated money-laundering ploy involving millions of laundered funds. The scheme allegedly involved casinos in Niagara and Ontario, particularly in the region of the Golden Horseshoe.
In a press release, RCMP Supt. Jeff Cooper has commented:
This investigation, conducted with the assistance of the OPP and FINTRAC, serves as a great example of how a coordinated enforcement effort can contribute to safer communities by disrupting the illegal drug trade and confiscating money laundering proceeds.
Jeff Cooper, RCMP
The investigation has found out that the sum, which was laundered through the casinos, amounted to more than CAD 3 million ($2.3 million) and came from selling cannabis illegally. This amount equals about 8,000 pounds of marijuana.
In addition, the RCMP busted significant cannabis cultivation at six different locations and seized 30,000 marijuana plants and 7,926 pounds of dried marijuana with an estimated worth of CAD 24.3 million ($18.6 million). The police confiscated cash of over CAD 1 million ($766,850) as well.
As the investigation is still not closed, the RCMP did not share any further information regarding the names of the casinos or details about how exactly did the money-laundering work.
Ontario Criticized Over Money-Laundering Controls
In connection with a report by the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia released in June 2022, James Cohen of Transparency International Canada has criticized Ontario as being the province with the least effective measures against money laundering. According to media reports, this has led to money-laundering criminals moving from the west to the east of Canada. Cohen has meaningfully pointed out:
The dirty money will go to the weakest link. Ontario needs to fortify itself.
James Cohen, Transparency International Canada
The Canadian government has welcomed the report and has pledged to work towards an adequate money-laundering federal policy and measures.