Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak to Bill C-25. This legislation contains needed measures to update Canada's fight against money laundering and terrorist financing activities.
This new government is determined to be on the front lines of the important global fight against money laundering and organized crime, and against terrorist financing activities.
Canada's anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regime must be kept up to date and must adapt to evolving money laundering and terrorist financing schemes. Criminals are constantly changing their tactics and finding new ways to evade the law.
The proposed amendments in the bill before the House today are critical in helping to stay one step ahead of these criminals.
Bill C-25 illustrates that Canada's new government is serious about ensuring that Canada's anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regimes both meet revised international standards in this area and also address the areas of risk here at home.
Before I address the specifics of this bill, I would like to take a few moments to provide some background to this proposed legislation to emphasize the importance of Bill C-25.
First, we ought to remind ourselves what exactly are money laundering and terrorist financing.
Members of the House are well aware that the activities of organized crime, such as drug trafficking and prostitution, generate significant amounts of money, usually in cash. The criminal or group must find a way to spend and invest the funds without attracting attention to the underlying illicit activity, lest it be shut down and they lose their source of revenue.
Money laundering of course is very difficult to quantify. However, the International Monetary Fund makes an educated estimate that the aggregate size of money laundering worldwide is between 2% and 5% of global GDP. That is a very significant amount.
How does money laundering work? How does it take place? Money laundering occurs in three stages. The first is the placement stage. In this stage the launderer introduces the illegal profits into the financial system. This is done in a number of ways. One is breaking up large amounts of cash into less conspicuous smaller sums that are then deposited directly into a bank account. Another is using cash to purchase a series of monetary instruments, cheques, money orders, et cetera, from financial institutions that are then collected and deposited into accounts at other locations.
The second stage is called layering. In this stage the launderer engages in a series of conversions or movements of the funds to distance them from the first place they were deposited. For example, this could be through the purchase or sale of investment instruments such as shares or a series of wire transfers to various bank accounts globally.
Having successfully moved the criminal profits through the first two stages of the money laundering process, the launderer then enters the third stage which is integration. It is at the integration stage that the funds re-enter the legitimate economy. The funds can now be invested or used to purchase luxury assets, real estate, securities or other investments.
Money launderers tend to seek out jurisdictions with weak or ineffective anti-money laundering programs. Canada does not want to be on that list. However, because the objective of money laundering is to get the illegal funds back to the individual who first collected them through criminal activity, launderers usually prefer to move funds through areas of highly developed, stable and sophisticated financial systems, and where the large volume of transactions may diminish the risk of suspicious transactions being detected. That is a country like Canada with a sophisticated and stable financial system.
The other element, terrorist financing, how does that fit into this picture? Terrorist organizations require financial support in order to carry out their evil and destructive activities. A successful terrorist group, like a criminal organization, must be able to build and maintain a steady flow of funds. It must develop sources of money, a means to covertly move that money around, and a way to ensure that the money can be used to obtain the materials needed to commit terrorist acts.
Terrorist financing comes from two primary sources. First, there is state sponsored terrorism, sadly. Financial support is provided for these terrorist activities by states or organizations large enough to collect and then make funds available to the terrorist organization. A variation of this is where a wealthy individual provides funding. For example, Osama bin Laden is thought to have contributed significant amounts of his personal fortune to the establishment and support of the al-Qaeda network.
The second source of terrorist financing is money derived directly from various revenue generating activities. As with organized criminals, a terrorist group's income often comes from crime or other unlawful activities. For example, a terrorist group may engage in large scale smuggling, various types of fraud, robbery and narcotics trafficking.
However, unlike organized crime, terrorism can be financed using legitimate funds such as those collected in the name of charitable causes. These loopholes, often exploited by terrorist groups, need special attention in order for Canada to move effectively to deny terrorists the funds they use for their destructive deeds.
It is this second source of terrorist funds that the measures in the bill are designed to detect.
It is important to remember that this activity has an effect on all Canadians because money laundering, major criminal fraud, and financial crimes have the potential to undermine the Canadian economy by impacting the reputation and integrity of individual financial institutions, not to mention the financial sector as a whole.
Members of the House will appreciate that the integrity of Canada's banking and financial services depends on citizens and investors being able to trust that institutions are well regulated and protected from criminal elements.
By extension, a healthy financial system is absolutely critical to Canada's ability to attract investment, and therefore increase and sustain overall economic growth and productivity.
If funds from criminal activity can be easily processed through a particular institution because proper anti-money laundering controls are not in place, institutions could be drawn into unwitting complicity with criminals. As well, evidence of such abuse will have a damaging effect on the perception of other financial intermediaries, regulatory authorities and Canadians themselves.
The potential costs of money laundering are of course serious. If not addressed, organized crime can infiltrate financial institutions, acquire control of large sectors of the economy through investment, create competitive disadvantages for local businesses, and continue to fund harmful criminal activity such as drug trafficking, human smuggling and prostitution which preys on women.
What has Canada done to prevent and deter money laundering and terrorist financing?
Since 2001 Canada has had an anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regime that is in the top tier of our international partners. This legislation has helped ensure that Canada is not a haven for money laundering and terrorist financing activities.
Indeed, Canada has made significant progress in detecting suspected cases of money laundering and terrorist financing. We continue to work closely with our domestic and international partners to improve the regime.
In 2005-06, reporting entities filed upwards of 30,000 suspicious transaction reports with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, FINTRAC. In turn, FINTRAC made 168 case disclosures to law enforcement agencies. In addition, 10 new domestic information-sharing agreements were signed with financial sector regulators.
FINTRAC now has 30 information-sharing agreements with foreign counterparts internationally.
Canada's new government has committed to a strong and comprehensive anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism regime that is consistent with international standards. That is what this bill, Bill C-25, is all about. It amends the existing legislation in order to update and enhance the legislation to better combat money laundering and terrorist financing activities.
To begin with, the measures proposed in the bill will update Canada's anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regime to be consistent with international standards set out by the Financial Action Task Force, which is the international standard-setting body on this issue. These standards were revised in 2003 and all task force members have had to update their regimes. Canada is now doing so with this bill.
The proposed amendments will require financial intermediaries to undertake a number of actions such as enhanced client identification and record-keeping measures. They will also be required to undertake enhanced measures with respect to certain clients and activities, for example with respect to foreign politically exposed persons and their banking relationships.
The reporting of suspicious attempted transactions will also be required.
Bill C-25 also establishes a new registration regime for money services businesses that remit funds in and out of Canada and for foreign exchange dealers, within FINTRAC. This new regime will provide FINTRAC with a tool to increase compliance with the requirements under this act for money services businesses and foreign exchange dealers. Coupled with the registration requirement, a new offence will be created for operating an unregistered money services business.
The exclusion of legal counsel from the regime has been identified as a gap by both the Auditor General and law enforcement. Over the last number of years, the government has been negotiating with the legal profession on how best to include it in the regime. Through regulations made under Bill C-25 and consistent with the Financial Action Task Force requirements, legal counsel will now be required to undertake client identification and record-keeping measures when acting as financial intermediaries.
These measures complement the prohibition on the receipt of cash over $7,500 by legal counsel that is currently in place and enforced through provincial law society rules of professional conduct. These measures also respect the Supreme Court of Canada's Lavallee decision.
Bill C-25 also establishes monetary penalties in addition to existing criminal sanctions. This will allow FINTRAC to impose graduated penalties that adequately reflect the nature of the violation. The monetary penalties, for example, will be particularly useful for offences that are less advertent or egregious.
An important part of Bill C-25 relates to information sharing. Specifically, the bill proposes to allow the exchange of information between FINTRAC here in Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency, and with Canadian law enforcement agencies, to better prevent and detect the use of registered charities for financing of terrorism.
Moreover, to increase the usefulness of FINTRAC's disclosures, the range of information disclosed will be expanded, as well as the list of disclosure recipients. This list will now include the Communications Security Establishment and the Canada Border Services Agency. Also, the agency will be allowed to share cross-border currency reporting information internally for the administration of immigration legislation.
Amendments are also proposed in Bill C-25 to allow information sharing of compliance-related information between FINTRAC and its foreign counterparts. As well, information sharing provisions are proposed between the Canada Border Services Agency and its foreign counterparts on the enforcement of the cross-border currency enforcing regime.
It is important to emphasize that Canada's government recognizes how essential it is to protect the privacy rights of Canadians. That is why Bill C-25 includes a number of safeguards to protect those rights. The bill strikes the right balance in meeting the needs of law enforcement while respecting the privacy rights of Canadians.
I want to outline for the House these safeguards. First, there is an arm's length relationship between FINTRAC and law enforcement and other agencies entitled to receive information. Second, there is disclosure of only key information regarding financial institutions and publicly available information to police and other designated entities. Third, there are criminal penalties for any unauthorized use of disclosure of personal information under FINTRAC's control. Fourth, there is a requirement for a court order by law enforcement agencies to obtain any other than very minimal information from FINTRAC.
With the proposals contained in the bill, the anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regime will continue to strike an appropriate balance, on the one hand providing law enforcement and intelligence agencies with the tools they need to effectively fight money laundering and terrorist financing, while on the other hand taking appropriate and strong steps to respect and protect the privacy of Canadians.
The bill is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the Privacy Act.
In closing, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the excellent work done by the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. Its insightful report calls for tougher measures to deal with money laundering and terrorist financing. This bill responds to the Senate committee recommendations.
Canada needs a robust and up to date anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regime to ensure security for Canadians on a number of fronts.
Canada must also continue to meet its global obligations. For the year starting July 1, 2006, Canada will chair the international Financial Action Task Force, the international standard-setting body on this important issue. Taking on this responsibility, along with the measures proposed in Bill C-25, demonstrates the solid leadership of Canada's new government that we are showing in the global effort against money laundering and terrorist financing.
I therefore urge all hon. members to accord swift passage to this bill.