Ontario authorities have uncovered an extensive money laundering scheme involving marijuana growers and Niagara casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Taking down the scheme
Police in Ontario have uncovered a money laundering scheme that operated through Niagara casinos and other parts of the province. On Tuesday, the Hamilton-Niagara Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) branch revealed that five individuals face a total of 29 charges as a result of a long-running investigation into drug trafficking and money laundering. Said individuals are Jian Hua Tao, En Quan Chen, Bo Hai Chen, Lin Li, and Zu Wen Chang.
seized about CA$24.3m (US$18.6m) worth of cannabis
Authorities seized about CA$24.3m (US$18.6m) worth of cannabis and over CA$1m (US$766,750) in cash. The police recently executed search warrants for six major marijuana-growing projects and five residences. There have been no details given as to the location of the growing operations or the residences.
A wide-ranging investigation
The origins of the investigation date back to 2017 after the RCMP was informed about a possible money laundering scheme in nearby casinos. According to the authorities, illegal marijuana growers managed to launder over CA$3m (US$2.3m).
disrupting the illegal drug trade and confiscating money laundering proceeds
The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) and the Ontario Provincial Police both helped the RCMP with the investigation. Speaking about the successful unmasking of the drug trafficking and money laundering scheme, RCMP Superintendent Jeff Cooper said that it is “a great example of how a co-ordinated enforcement effort can contribute to safer communities by disrupting the illegal drug trade and confiscating money laundering proceeds.”
An issue with other casinos
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will be starting a review into the effectiveness of current anti-money laundering controls at casinos in the province. Money laundering is something that casinos all across the world have had to try to deal with; money launderers are constantly tweaking their approach and becoming more innovative.
The two main casinos in Niagara are Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara. Both of these establishments offer table games and slot machines.
There have been extensive money laundering schemes uncovered in British Columbia in recent times. A report released last month showed how billions of dollars were laundered through the province’s casinos between 2008 and 2018. Gaming regulators, politicians, and law enforcement took criticism in the report. There were a total of 101 recommendations made with the aim of improving anti-money laundering standards in the region.