Sabrina Maddeaux: Organized criminals defrauded taxpayers – and the Liberals don’t seem to care

Rather than launch an immediate investigation into the case and commit to tracking down and prosecuting the culprits, the Liberals did nothing

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Is there anything left in Canada that is not tainted by organized crime? More and more, the answer is no. Over the past few weeks, there have been a slew of reports on the impact of organized crime on everything from the spiral real estate costs to the country’s growth drug problem and even tractor theft . Now, a recently released report from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada (FINTRAC) reveals the government has no idea how much pandemic support money has been paid to criminal elements .

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According to the 2020 report , which was released as part of an access to information request, organized criminals “knowingly and actively” defrauded the Canada Emergency Benefit (CEP) and the Canada Emergency Account for companies (CEBA).

They would file multiple CERB applications using stolen identities, then “recruit groups of people to cash benefit checks at various locations around town.” They would also transfer the $ 40,000 CEBA loans intended for troubled businesses to personal accounts and withdraw the money. The fraudulently obtained benefits were then sometimes mixed with laundered money to obscure the true source of the funds.

Government has no idea how much pandemic support money has gone to criminals

This is all bad enough. Worse yet, FINTRAC doesn’t even know how many taxpayer dollars, intended to support other desperate Canadians, went to criminals – perhaps even to fund other criminal activity. What is even more painful is that the federal government does not seem to really care.

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Rather than launch an immediate investigation into the matter and commit to tracking down and prosecuting the culprits, the Liberals did nothing. It’s the Conservatives are calling the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to launch an audit and urge the government to put in place better safeguards.

The reality is that it is unlikely that anyone will be prosecuted for this alleged fraud. Over the past decade, Canada has secured fewer than 50 money laundering convictions, despite our reputation as an international hub for illegal parking and money laundering.

There appears to be little appetite to crack down, with the Liberals taking a particularly lax stance on the issue, even as the issue explodes from a dirty little secret in financial and real estate circles to a hot topic. Across the country.

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This is where things get really dangerous. Financial crime is not just an accounting problem; it is a matter of national security. For starters, it threatens Canada’s economic stability – an effect we are seeing with soaring housing costs.

It also threatens public safety. By its very nature, money laundering is linked to other crimes. In Canada, this is largely linked to the opioid crisis, which continues to claim record numbers of lives. British Columbia just reported the highest number of illicit drug overdoses on record in the first nine months of this year. The national rate of opioid-related deaths increased by a third since the start of the pandemic.

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Obviously, lives are at stake here. So what does it say when everyone is talking about the issue, the media is talking about it diligently and the government is still doing nothing? It is then that it begins to threaten the very credibility of our government and our financial institutions.

By its very nature, money laundering is linked to other crimes

Inaction in the face of known criminal activity is fertile ground for mistrust, disillusionment, heightened anger towards public institutions and even conspiracy theories. It undermines any sense of community and amplifies the idea that it’s every man for himself. These are clearly the last things Canada needs during a pandemic that is already tearing the ends of society apart.

Tackling financial crime will require investments in Canada’s intelligence, investigation and law enforcement agencies. It will also require commitments to independent oversight of facilitators in the finance and real estate sectors, as well as a real commitment to publicly available beneficial ownership records.

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Above all, the federal government will have to signal that it is ready to seriously tackle organized crime. Turning a blind eye to CERB and CEBA fraud does the exact opposite.

If government agencies cannot protect themselves – and taxpayer funds – from organized crime, what hope do they have of cracking down on private financial institutions, casinos and real estate transactions? It is high time the Liberals put their homes in order for a chance to clean up the country.

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