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In Canada, casino money launderers have changed their methods, where the media’s focus on British Columbia’s dirty-cash scam has forced criminals to adopt new strategies.

That’s stated by the federal Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, aka Fintrac, which alerted casino operators this week to pay close attention to low rollers who fund their gambling via bank drafts rather than high-stakes players.

The plastic bags filled with banknotes which were traded for chips to fund VIP gamblers have been ditched in favor of something altogether less noticeable – low-fi “money mules” who are money launderting, wittingly or unwittingly, for the benefit criminal enterprises.

Draft Cheats

As reported by Casino.org, this week Fintrac released an “operational alert” asking casinos to pay particular inspection to customers who use back drafts regularly to buy chips or fund a gaming account.

These players may also be escorted to a casino by an individual who is subject to a gaming ban, or they may live in a territory with “currency control restrictions,” like China.

Fintrac said mules usually listed their occupations as “student,” “housewife,” or “unemployed,” and their bank accounts showed “in-and-out activity, with a high volume of cash deposits from various unknown sources, which were then used to purchase bank drafts payable to third parties or casinos.”

The agency said bank drafts are favored due to their liquidity and “quasi-anonymity.”

Laundry Cycle

British Columbians are still dazed from the disclosure that, by 2016, the province had become a “laundromat for organized crime,” in the words of an independent report approved by Attorney General David Eby and published in May 2019.

Revealed security tape from Vancouver-area casinos showed images of banknotes being carried into casinos in plastic bags. The cash was mostly supplied by underground banks wanting to launder money from the sale of drugs shipped to Canada from South America and the fentanyl factories of China’s Guangdong province.

In thrall to the spending habits of Chinese high rollers, the casinos were prepared to turn a blind eye to anti-money laundering controls and adopted a culture of accepting large volumes of cash without enquiring about the source.

Following the publication of the report, the province started a public inquiry into money laundering which showed that each year billions was being washed through its casino sector and housing market, increasing housing prices and adding to the opioid crisis.

While the criminals are adapting, so are authorities. Fintrac’s alert is based on the newest findings of Project ATHENA, which initially started as a BC investigation into money laundering at casinos in the Lower Mainland area.

Since then Project ATHENA has expanded to a national focus and has grown its scope to include real estate, luxury vehicles and high-value goods.

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