Mr. Speaker, today we are at third and final reading of Bill C-25. The bill is entitled Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. The bill proposes amendments to the existing act against money laundering and terrorist financing. These amendments will toughen Canada's existing anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing legislation.
We are aware and we applaud the fact that we are more and more a global economy, that all countries interact together to do what they do best in the global marketplace, and that open borders provide these kinds of opportunities for Canadian businesses to thrive internationally.
However, every upside has certain downsides. This kind of openness in commerce, trade and financial transactions around the world also provides criminals with opportunities. Criminals use these opportunities to launder millions of dollars in illegal cash. The intention of criminal and terrorist elements, of course, is to make these proceeds look legitimate, so they can use them without attracting the unwelcome attention of law enforcement agencies. The funds are also increasingly used to fund terrorist activities. We want to put a stop to this.
Criminal activities, I do not have to remind the House, undermine the reputation and integrity of financial institutions. They distort the operation of financial markets and adequate measures must be put in place to deter this kind of activity.
I want to remind all members, although we have spoken about this issue before, that the proposed legislation is extremely important to our country. I want to take a few minutes to explain briefly what money laundering and terrorist financing is, how it operates, and especially how it can affect our Canadian economy.
Money laundering is the process used by criminals to disguise the source of money and assets derived from criminal activity. This kind of criminal activity is very broad. It runs from drug trafficking, prostitution, smuggling, fraud, extortion, corruption, to criminal activity of all kinds. Most of this activity generates large quantities of cash, untraceable cash, but cash nevertheless, that can raise suspicions of law enforcement agencies. Criminals turn to money laundering and they have to use legitimate financial institutions and systems to do this. This can compromise the integrity of these institutions. It can also facilitate corruption in a country. It can destabilize economies. It is a serious threat to any country.
This kind of criminal activity is nothing new. It has been around for a long time in one form or another. However, there has been a change recently. Money laundering has become an increasingly global phenomenon. This is because of technological advances in e-commerce and the global diversification of financial markets. Because of this, criminals now use very sophisticated techniques to carry out these money laundering activities. These techniques can lead to further opportunities to launder illegal profit and obscure the money trail leading back to underlying crime.
Methods for laundering funds vary considerably and are often highly sophisticated and intricate. However, there are generally three basic stages to the process. I mentioned this before to the House, but some members may not have heard it so I will just repeat it quickly.
First, there is the placement stage. This involves placing the proceeds of crime, usually in small amounts at a time, into the financial system.
Placement is followed by layering. At this second stage, the dirty money is converted into another form through complex layers of financial transactions that disguise the audit trail and disguise the source and ownership of funds. This, for example, can be by buying and selling stocks or by buying and selling commodities or properties. These are some common vehicles for layering.
Finally, there is the integration stage and in this stage the laundered proceeds are placed back into the economy, hidden under a veil of legitimate business activity.
Terrorist financing has an extra wrinkle to all of this because it can involve funds that have been raised from legitimate sources. Unlike organized crime, terrorists can raise funds through legitimate sources such as personal donations, profits from business, or through charitable organizations.
Terrorist financing can also come from funds that have been through the money laundering process that I have just described, that is, it could come from criminal sources such as the drug trade, smuggling weapons and other goods, fraud, kidnapping, extortion, all of these criminal activities in addition to legitimate activities.
Terrorists, like criminal organizations, use sophisticated money laundering techniques to evade the attention of authorities. However, to make the money harder to follow, financial transactions associated with terrorist financing tend to be in smaller amounts than in the case with money laundering by criminal organizations. When terrorists raise funds from legitimate sources, members of the House can appreciate that the detection and tracking of those particular funds becomes very difficult.
To move their funds out of our country or another country, terrorists often use informal money transfer systems such as Hawalas. These exist and operate outside of, or parallel to, what we normally think of as traditional banking or financial channels.
In Canada, in an effort to conceal the final destination of laundered money, FINTRAC is finding that funds suspected of being used for financing terrorist activities are increasingly being moved out of the country through traditional banking centres to countries with major financial hubs.
How big is this money laundering and terrorist financing problem? What are we dealing with? What do we need to be aware of? Because this is hidden activity, it is pretty hard to put an actual dollar figure on it. We do know that this activity involves significant amounts of money. The International Monetary Fund, through its expert sources, has estimated that worldwide the aggregate size of money laundering is between 2% and 5% of the entire global GDP. That is very significant by any standard.
What can we do about it? The bottom line is that criminal and terrorist activity requires money. One of the best ways to put these individuals out of business is to starve them of funds. That is why we are here today with Bill C-25. The bill would improve Canada's ability to act decisively and shut down these criminal operations when they are detected.
We have already taken some steps in this direction. Members will recall that in the recent spring budget there was extra funding for key partners in combating this kind of activity of money laundering and terrorist financing. There is $64 million in additional funding over the next two years for the RCMP, the Department of Justice, the Canada Border Services Agency and FINTRAC.
Just a reminder for those who are wondering, FINTRAC is Canada's financial intelligence unit. It is an integral part of our country's commitment to fight money laundering and terrorist activity financing. FINTRAC gathers information about financial transactions, analyzes it and if it sees something suspicious alerts our security forces to take further action.
As the finance minister said when he introduced this bill that is before us today, “Canada's new Government will continue to be relentless in its battle against money laundering and terrorism financing”.
To build on the measures in the budget to increase funding for these kinds of security activities by the RCMP and CSIS, Bill C-25 will help ensure that Canada continues to be a global leader in combating organized crime and terrorist financing.
It will do that by making our financing regime consistent with new standards that were recently adopted by the financial action task force. Members will know that the FATF is an international standard setting body for developing and promoting national and international policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
We are proud of the fact that Canada was a founding member of this organization. I commend the previous government for the leadership that Canada took in this area.
Canada is committed to implementing the 40 new recommendations of the FATF on money laundering and nine special recommendations on terrorist financing. Canada's response to those revised recommendations have been put into law in the bill we are debating today.
The bill also responds to the Auditor General. In 2004 the Auditor General made some recommendations about how to strengthen our regime. We want to respond positively to her recommendations. In 2004 there was a Treasury Board evaluation of our regime. Treasury Board made some recommendations which we want to put into place as well.
Recently, the Auditor General appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. The Auditor General has confirmed to the committee, and I would like to let the House know, that this bill in the Auditor General's opinion appears to deal with the key findings in the report from the Auditor General's Office in November 2004.
Not only that, we have recently received a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. The Senate committee undertook an extensive study of this whole area of money laundering and terrorist financing. The report called for a number of tougher measures to deal with these activities.
Those of us in the House want to thank the Senate committee members for the insights that they have provided on this issue. They are satisfied and pleased I believe, although they will be examining this bill in some detail in the days to come, that their proposed recommendations have been enshrined in this legislation and in related regulations.
The following are the key proposals in this legislation. First, there is something new in the area of information sharing. Right now, FINTRAC shares information with law enforcement and other domestic and international agencies. This bill would enhance that information sharing in ways that were recommended by the Auditor General and also requested by law enforcement agencies.
Specifically, this would enhance the information FINTRAC can disclose to law enforcement and security agencies on suspicious and money laundering terrorist financing. It is not much good for FINTRAC to have this information if it cannot alert those who could actually investigate it further and do something about it.
Second, the bill deals with the registration system. It proposes to create a system to register money service businesses and foreign exchange dealers. Previously, these entities were not registered and, because they also have been conduits for money laundering, they will now be brought into the system.
With a federal registration system in place for individuals and entities engaged in money service businesses of foreign exchange, FINTRAC would act as registrar and would maintain a public list of registered money service businesses and foreign exchange dealers.
Third, the bill deals with enhanced client identification measures. It would include requirements for reporting entities, banks, insurance companies, securities dealers and money services businesses to undertake enhanced monitoring of high risk situations. In other words, we are heightening the level of vigilance in our country. This would include the monitoring of transactions of foreign nationals who hold prominent public positions.
The current legislation only allows for serious criminal penalties if the act is contravened. In order to take a more balanced and gradual approach to compliance, the bill would allow FINTRAC to levy fines to deal with lesser contraventions or inadvertent breaches of the act. It would also provide FINTRAC with the ability to create an administrative and monetary penalty system whereby fines can be applied for non-compliance. This would better help FINTRAC to do its work.
For those who have made inquiries about this, the regulations for this bill would also include other reporting entities, such as gemstone and precious metals dealers they deal with, and compliance measures that are appropriate to legal practitioners. Discussions are underway with the building industry.
Not only the government but the entire House is very serious about winning the battle against money laundering and terrorist financing. I would like to commend all members of the House from all parties for their united determination to get behind these measures. There has been a very good level of cooperation from all parties in bringing the bill forward and that will benefit all Canadians. Canadians should commend all parties for this cooperation. As Mr. Speaker knows, that does not always happen in the House but, on important issues, members of Parliament can act in a united way.
For the first time ever, the House should know that Canada has assumed the presidency of the FATF. We are very pleased about the leadership role we will have in this area. Our presidency of the FATF is another example of our commitment to national and international security, to collaborative solutions to global threats and to meeting the need for international cooperation and international institutions to deal with this area.
The bill would make Canada's overall regime consistent with international standards. It would continue to help us keep one step ahead of those who would abuse our system to fund criminal and international terrorist activities.
We appreciate the fact that we have all party support for this. I would tell Canadians that they can be reassured that the government, the House of Commons and Canada's Parliament are dealing with this important issue in an expeditious and effective manner.