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Ontario Needs to Crackdown Suspicious Casino Cash, say Ex-RCMP Officers

Recently, two former officers of the RCMP have directed a message to the Province of Ontario to conduct a complete investigation into the hundreds of millions of dollars of shady cash transactions at casinos. According to recent reports, despite the measures against suspicious transactions and money laundering, Ontario casinos still witness a high volume of such transfers.

A while back Ontario implemented new provisions requiring casinos to keep track of patrons making a transaction of more than CA$3,000 and determine the source of cash, while also being alert for potential money laundering. These rules were put in motion at the start of 2022, but still, during that year, the province saw an increase in suspicious cash transactions.

Two Former RCMP Officers Weigh In

Cal Chrustie, a former RCMP investigator who was involved in money laundering and transnational investigations, shared his expertise on the issue. His guess is that in many of the cases, large sums of cash were acquired illegally. He noted that the numbers were significant but until every transaction is fully examined by an investigation it would be hard to tell.

One of those transactions includes a case of more than CA$4 million made over several years by Branavan Kanapathipillai. He made a large cash buy-in at Pickering Casino Resort in 2022, which was reported by staff. Mr. Kanapathipillai also made 10 transactions in the range of CA$50,000 to CA$100,000. However, the source of the cash was unknown, which was unusual.

The Province of B.C. has also had to deal with suspicious cash transactions. In 2022, the Cullen Commissionโ€™s report on its inquiry into money laundering activities at local casinos was released to the public. It concluded that money laundering reached extremely high levels, due to ineffective efforts by the RCMP, politicians, and regulators. But it did not find evidence of corruption.

Peter German, a former RCMP deputy commissioner, who compiled a report on B.C.โ€™s casinos with recommendations said he was not able to make conclusions on Ontario based on raw figures. However, he said that much can be learned by a big-picture look at the funds. He explained that there could be over-reporting and underreporting of suspicious transactions and that the regulator should also follow up.

More Than a Financial Crime

Mr. Chrustie also said that the potential money laundering has to be viewed as more than just a financial crime. He said this was due to the ill-originated gains which could empower criminals, such as drug dealers or other agencies that could be of national security threat. He believes it was not enough to simply rely on the police force to receive suspicious transaction reports and do nothing after that.

Lastly, Mr. Chrustie shared that this was the case in B.C. and that it was a straw man mentality. He claimed that everyone will send reports of suspicious transactions and that people like himself would be overwhelmed by the volume and will not look at 99% of those transactions. In his words, the model looked great on paper, but it does not work in reality.

Source: Woodward, Jon โ€œFormer RCMP officers call on Ontario to get to the bottom of $372M in suspicious casino transactionsโ€ CTV News Toronto, May 15, 2023