Toronto Currency Shop Involved In $3.5-B Money Laundering Network

A Toronto currency shop has found itself at the center of an extensive RCMP leak case, revealing its involvement in an astonishing $3.5-billion worth of transactions monitored by Canada’s money laundering watchdog. The sensitive report was leaked by Cameron Ortis, the former intelligence director of the Mounties.

Salim Henareh, the owner of this currency shop, was targeted by the Five Eyes intelligence alliance as a financial intermediary connecting Canada’s Big Five banks, Hezbollah’s Dubai-based terror financing kingpin Altaf Khanani, and Middle Eastern organized crime cells operating in Canadian cities. In March 2015, Ortis illegally shared numerous Fintrac reports related to these transactions with Henareh, effectively warning him about an ongoing RCMP investigation. This action had a profound international impact, aiding Henareh and Khanani’s global money laundering network and potentially enabling their clients to evade financial regulators.

During a recent court hearing in Ottawa, retired RCMP staff sergeant Patrick Martin, a Toronto financial crimes investigator involved in Project Oryx (which targeted Henareh and Khanani’s Canadian agents), testified that he was unaware of Ortis leaking investigation plans and related Fintrac documents. This revelation came early in Project Oryx, within the first month, significantly affecting the investigation.

Ortis faces serious allegations, including aiding Khanani’s network in evading Five Eyes investigations and profiting from high-tech criminals in Vancouver who offered uncrackable Blackberry phones to clients, including Khanani and Mexican cartel bosses. Ortis claims he had authorization to share RCMP secrets, but the cross-examination of RCMP witnesses by Ortis’ lawyers suggests that he had broad discretion while running undercover operations against Khanani’s network.

Source: The Bureau

The United States and the United Kingdom are closely monitoring Ortis’ trial, and foreign law enforcement agencies may express interest in prosecuting him. Beyond the questions of Ortis’ fate and the potential damage to Five Eyes, an analysis of sensitive documents presented in the trial raises concerns about the integrity of Canada’s banking industry and its inability to regulate money laundering.

The FBI and RCMP intelligence agencies targeted Henareh in late 2014 as part of a high-priority investigation, with Khanani as their main focus. Khanani, an international financial operative for Hezbollah, posed a significant threat. Project Oryx, the Canadian component of the investigation, initially focused on politically-connected Iranian-community leaders in Toronto running currency shops and immigration-investment businesses. Henareh, the most prominent currency trader, had been on Fintrac and RCMP’s radar for approximately ten years.

The investigation also extended to smaller currency shops in Mississauga and Toronto with links to Pakistan, which did business with Henareh and Khanani. Project Oryx aimed to disrupt money laundering in Canada, while the broader international goal of Five Eyes was to disrupt Hezbollah’s ability to fund terrorism through drug money.

Source: The Bureau
Source: The Bureau

A previously unexamined concern in Khanani’s case was how drug cash collected in Canadian cities found its way from strip mall currency shops to Canada’s Big Five banks before being wired to the Middle East. Records seized from Ortis and filed as evidence in his prosecution revealed Henareh’s suspected role as an intermediary in this process.

Despite the new evidence presented in Ortis’ trial and a 2021 United States criminal complaint implicating Henareh’s Canadian businesses in an Iran sanctions evasion scheme, Henareh continues to deny any wrongdoing. The jury heard that Project Oryx was based on a September 2014 intelligence report from the RCMP’s National Intelligence Coordination Centre (NICC), which was based on Five Eyes intelligence.

The report identified Persepolis International and Rosco Trading, businesses associated with Henareh, as entities involved in international money laundering. It highlighted the use of these businesses in conducting financial transactions related to Iran. According to the report, Fintrac had disclosed over $3.5 billion in financial transactions related to Persepolis International since 2002, indicating that these figures could be understated.

The investigation aimed to turn the Five Eyes intelligence into hard evidence in Canada by conducting surveillance on smaller currency shops collecting cash for Khanani’s companies, which were later wired to Dubai, India, and Pakistan. Henareh acted as an on-ramp to Canadian banks, and the smaller shops did not have the necessary connections with large banks to handle these transfers.

The involvement of Henareh was crucial as he had established business relationships with Canada’s international banks, which acted as a bridge to Khanani’s international accounts. However, the smaller shops faced limitations due to their lack of connections with large banks, which made them high-risk clients for banks. Therefore, they relied on intermediaries like Henareh to facilitate their transactions.

Leaking information from Project Oryx to the subjects under investigation, as Ortis did, posed a significant risk. It could have led them to change their tactics or even stop illegal activities, jeopardizing the investigation. Farzam Mehdizadeh, another target in Project Oryx, managed to flee to Iran just days before the RCMP planned to arrest him in 2017.

Records from the September 2014 intelligence report suggest the scale of suspected drug cash flowing through the currency shops targeted by Project Oryx was significant. Some of the transactions were associated with the import and export of heroin to various countries, including Australia, Pakistan, and Germany.

Additionally, an 11-page Fintrac disclosure report mailed to Henareh in March 2015 revealed extensive banking partnerships and numerous suspicious transaction reports. This information could have advised Henareh that he was under scrutiny, leading him to alter his behavior and possibly causing a ripple effect on the illegal activities of his clients.

Source: The Bureau

The Ministry of Finance was alerted to Project Oryx’s primary targets and possessed information indirectly related to Rosco Trading. Questions regarding the Canadian banking sector’s exposure to Rosco Trading have been raised, but the Canadian Minister of Finance has not responded to inquiries about this matter.

Information for this briefing was found via The Bureau and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

One thought on “Toronto Currency Shop Involved In $3.5-B Money Laundering Network

  • October 17, 2023 1:25 PM at 1:25 pm

    Inefficiency and corruption at the highest level


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