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First AML Compliance Effectiveness Review Timing

As a company that gets to work with a lot of startups, and existing companies entering the Canadian market, we get to help folks understand the regulatory landscape in Canada. One of the required elements of a Canadian compliance program is an AML Compliance Effectiveness Review. These reviews must be completed every two years at a minimum. You can think of it like an audit, but for compliance.

The purpose of an effectiveness review is to determine whether your AML compliance program has gaps or weaknesses that may prevent your business from effectively preventing, detecting and deterring money laundering and terrorist financing. Recently, we have seen an increased focus on Effectiveness Reviews during FINTRAC examinations. Specifically, on whether the review really tested the effectiveness of the compliance program as a whole (not just what you say you’re doing, but also what you’re actually doing). This has led to FINTRAC examiners requesting the working papers for completed effectiveness reviews where the report did not clearly describe how the effectiveness was tested and assessed. This is the main reason Outlier has started providing our working papers with the final report. This also provides a pretty good reference point for making sure you are meeting your regulatory expectations.

First Time for Everything

In previous engagements, Outlier has operated on the theory that the clock for when your first review was due stemmed from the MSB’s FINTRAC registration date. However, we were incorrect. It wasn’t until a recent conversation where the registration date preceded any customer transactions by six months, that really spurred on an official clarification from the regulator. The trigger for the 2-year clock to start ticking is not registration but “a registered MSB is required to create a compliance program once it engages in one or more of the MSB-related activities.” This means that the clock starts ticking after the MSB has conducted their first transaction.

Here is a PDF version of the policy interpretation we received from FINTRAC that you can keep for your records.

Potential Corrections

If we have completed a review for you in the past that has a commencement date prior to your first customer transaction, please feel free to reach out so we can amend your report to the proper date.

Upcoming Effectiveness Reviews

While this article talks about your first review, you must also be sure to initiate all subsequent reviews within 2 years of the start date of your previous review. Please note that this is based on the previous commencement date, not the date of completion or issuance of the final report.

Need a Hand?

If you are looking for an idea of pricing for an upcoming review or have questions about a review that is currently underway, please feel free to contact us.

FINTRAC MSB Registration Expired?!?

FINTRAC Registration

Over the past few months, we have heard from several money services businesses (MSBs) that have experienced issues in renewing their MSB registrations with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). In most cases, these issues are easily resolved. However, if MSB registration issues are not addressed promptly, administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) or criminal charges may ensue.

It is likely that registration-related issues have become more common as FINTRAC is increasingly requesting additional information or clarifications from MSBs as part of the initial registration and registration renewal process. These requests are sent via email to the contact person listed in the MSB registration form.

Check Your MSB registration Status

You can view the status of your MSB registration by searching for your business on the public MSB registry. While this article is about the MSB registration status, anytime you are on this page, it is a useful practice to check to ensure that all of the information is up to date. There are several possible options for the “Registration status of MSB” field:

Registered: this is the status that is displayed for active MSBs. The detailed view will also show the expiry date of the registration.

Ceased: this status is displayed when an MSB has cancelled their registration (e.g. because the business is no longer conducting MSB activity or is only performing MSB activity as the agent of another MSB).

Expired: this status is displayed when an MSB has not submitted an MSB registration renewal on time, has not responded to requests for information from FINTRAC, or has not provided sufficient information to FINTRAC to complete the renewal process.

Revoked: this status indicates that FINTRAC has revoked an MSB’s registration.

If the Expiry Date is Coming Up Soon

If you notice that your MSB’s registration is expiring soon, there are several steps that you should take proactively. First, make sure that you have your login credentials and access FINTRAC’s secure MSB Registration portal. On the left-hand side of the screen, you may see an option to submit your renewal application. If this option is not yet present, it is still a useful practice to select “view completed form” and review the MSB information to ensure that everything is up to date. If there is anything that needs to be updated, you can update the form (information must be updated within 30 days of any changes; do not wait for the renewal date to make updates).

If the renewal can be processed at this time, make sure that you take the time to look at all data fields. Are these fields complete and accurate? Does the information related to the MSB’s beneficial ownership match what will be found in any corporate registries (if not, additional information and/or correction may be required before the registration can be processed). FINTRAC may request additional information by email, and your registration will not be renewed until these queries have been satisfied.

If the Registration is Expired

If you notice that your registration has expired, you should immediately access FINTRAC’s secure MSB Registration portal to renew it. It may be that you have simply missed a deadline, or that you did not notice an error message or request for additional information from FINTRAC. Whatever the cause, you should work to resolve the issue and renew the registration as soon as possible.

If you are not able to renew the registration, contact FINTRAC immediately by emailing guidelines-lignesdirectrices@fintrac-canafe.gc.ca and MSBRegistration@fintrac-canafe.gc.ca immediately with the subject line “URGENT – MSB Renewal Issue – Renewal Date Passed”.

  • In the body of the email, let them know:
  • The company name and MSB number
  • That you have been attempting to renew the MSB registration
  • If you have responded to any requests for additional information, the details of these correspondences (attach copies if possible)
  • Ask what information is needed at this stage to renew the MSB registration

Keep a copy of this and all communications with FINTRAC.

You may also want to consider making a voluntary self-declaration of non-compliance (VSDONC) to FINTRAC. For help with disclosures, check out our previous blog post.

If you receive a “Notice of Violation”

Where an MSB registration is expired, and the MSB continues to perform MSB activities (other than as an agent for another MSB), a penalty may be assessed, and a “Notice of Violation” may be issued. At this stage, a law firm should be engaged (we’re happy to recommend competent firms if this is something that you need). There are specific and relatively short timeframes for all response steps, and this should be treated as urgent.

We’re here to help.

If you are not sure what to do next or need assistance with compliance, please get in touch.

Outlier Compliance Group welcomes Karene Lewis!

The Outlier Compliance Group team is thrilled to welcome our newest member, Karene Lewis!

Karene brings deep banking (including credit union) and money services business (MSB) experience.

Karene’s Bio

Karene joins the Outlier team with more than 15 years of experience in the financial services sector; over 10 years of experience working in the Credit Union sector; over eight years of working experience building relationships with MSBs and PSPs, and enhancing and managing compliance programs for a variety of regulated entities.

Her areas of knowledge and experience in regulatory compliance and risk management were gained through various roles throughout her career in the financial services sector; managing regulatory compliance and risk, contributing to the development and implementation of policies and procedures, conducting comprehensive internal compliance audits, effectiveness reviews, risk assessments and the training of team members, senior management and executives; with proven strengths in communication and building strong business relationships.

Karene got into compliance when in her role as Business Relationship Manager, she was tasked with managing the MSB and high-risk client program for the financial institution. In order to become more familiar with the industry that she was now going to be working so closely with, she attended a Canadian MSB conference, where she learned so much about these regulated entities, how they are typically formed out of a need to provide financial services to often underserved communities and as a way for families to send financial assistance to family members in need, in diasporas around the world. With this knowledge, she was hooked and wanted to find out how she could help bring a positive light to this much-needed service while ensuring adherence to all applicable regulatory compliance laws and regulations.

Karene supports Outlier’s mission statement, “good compliance can enable good business.” She is passionate about compliance and risk management and believes that businesses can be successful and compliant at the same time; sometimes all you need is a little help and some guidance to set you on the right path.

Please join us in welcoming Karene!

She’ll be attending the Futurist conference in Toronto as her first official Outlier event. Please say hello and welcome her to the team.

EFTs, PSPs & Crowdfunding : Canada’s Changing Regulatory Landscape

On April 27th, 2022 amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations (PCMLTFR) and associated regulations related to penalties for non-compliance were passed. These amendments were unusual, as there was little prior public consultation, no pre-publication for public comment, and they came into force “on publication” (right away). This is particularly unusual, as new business models were included in the money services business (MSB) and foreign money services business (FMSB) categories.

Specifically, a number of payment services providers (PSPs) became MSBs through a change in the definition of electronic funds transfers (EFTs), and companies that provide crowdfunding services also became MSBs/FMSBs. Historically, these types of changes would have included a pre-publication of the proposed amendment with time for industry participants to comment. There is also, generally, a period of time between the publication of final amendments and the coming into force date (often a year). Absent these buffers, both industry and Canada’s AML regulator, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) have been scrambling to assess the many nuances of the amendments.

While we’ve seen a number of responses to individual applicants for MSB registrations and requests for policy interpretations from FINTRAC, today’s release was the first substantial piece of public guidance from the regulator. For those inclined, it can be accessed here: https://fintrac-canafe.canada.ca/notices-avis/2022-07-21-eng

EFTs and PSPs

What may have seemed like an inconsequential change to the definition of EFTs, which removed certain exemptions, has significant impacts on payment services providers.

“As payment services are not a prescribed service under the PCMLTFA, FINTRAC is taking the position that persons or entities that provide invoice payment services or payment services for goods and services are engaged in the business of remitting or transmitting funds, or dealing in virtual currency.”

FINTRAC’s guidance goes on to define each of these activities and the (very limited) exemptions in each case.

Crowdfunding

While crowdfunding gets a nod in the title of the guidance, it doesn’t really factor into the substance of today’s piece. There are definitions in the amendments themselves in this case, and it’s likely that additional guidance will follow as FINTRAC works through these registrations.

crowdfunding platform means a website or an application or other software that is used to raise funds or virtual currency through donations. (plateforme de sociofinancement)”

crowdfunding platform services means the provision and maintenance of a crowdfunding platform for use by other persons or entities to raise funds or virtual currency for themselves or for persons or entities specified by them. (services de plateforme de sociofinancement)”

FINTRAC’s MSB/FMSB Registration Process

The guidance notes that FINTRAC is working on getting businesses registered “over the next several weeks.” As there are many businesses that will be newly registering as MSBs or FMSBs, industry participants should expect some delays. It has also become much more common for FINTRAC to ask for additional details about the business, such as the business model and flow of funds.

There is also a tool to check to see if your business should be registered: https://www.fintrac-canafe.gc.ca/msb-esm/questions/2-eng

If you’re ready to register, you can find an overview of the process and links to the pre-registration form here: https://fintrac-canafe.canada.ca/msb-esm/register-inscrire/reg-ins-eng

Requesting Policy Interpretations

There are two important FINTRAC email addresses. If you have a question specifically about whether or not your business should register, first try msb-esm@fintrac-canafe.gc.ca.

For other policy interpretation requests (or if your request is particularly complex), your best avenue is most likely guidelines-lignesdirectrices@fintrac-canafe.gc.ca.

Enforcement Actions

FINTRAC’s guidance indicates that the regulator will take a reasonable approach to entities required to register.

“We understand that there will be challenges in meeting certain obligations. FINTRAC will be reasonable in its assessment and enforcement approach, and is committed to working with reporting entities subject to the PCMLTFA and its Regulations to increase their awareness, understanding and compliance with their obligations. Please continue to monitor our website for updates or additional guidance.”

This gentle approach will not last indefinitely. If your business needs to be registered (and get its house in order AML compliance-wise), it’s time to get started.

We’re here to help.

Whether you want a hand drafting a policy interpretation request, an AML compliance program, or training for your newly minted AML Compliance Officer (congratulations, I’m sorry), we’re here to help. Please get in touch.

Effectiveness Reviews for Dealers in Virtual Currency

Effective June 1, 2020, dealers in Virtual Currency activities were considered as Money Services Businesses (MSBs) and as such, must comply with MSB obligations under amendments made to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA). One obligation is to have an AML effectiveness review at least once every two years. MSBs must start their effectiveness review no later than two years from the start of their previous review or in the case of dealers in Virtual Currency, no later than June 1, 2022, the date they were considered to be MSBs under law.

Such reviews must test your compliance program and effectiveness of your operations. Our reviews follow a similar format to examinations conducted by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), which you can read more about in a previous Blog Post.

We’re Here To Help

If you have not yet engaged or commenced your review, there are still a couple of weeks to be compliant. If you would like to engage Outlier to conduct your AML Compliance Effectiveness Review or have questions regarding this obligation, please get in touch.

Amendments To The Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations – 2022

Background

On April 27, 2022 amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations were published in the Canada Gazette. To make reading these changes a little easier, we (thanks Rodney) have created a redlined version of the regulations, with new content showing as tracked changes, which can be found here.

The Regulatory Impact Statement for these changes state the following:

Crowdfunding platforms and some payment service providers are not currently covered by the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (the Act) and therefore have no money laundering and terrorist financing obligations under federal statute. This lack of oversight presents a serious and immediate risk to the security of Canadians and to the Canadian economy. This risk was highlighted in early 2022, when illegal blockades took place across Canada that were financed, in part, through crowdfunding platforms and payment service providers. Allowing these gaps to continue represents a risk to the integrity and stability of the financial sector and the broader economy, as well as a reputational risk for Canada.

Amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations, and consequential amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations, will help prevent the financing of illegal activities through these types of financial services.

What’s Changed?

The changes are substantial and sudden. They will affect many companies that have not been previously under the purview of AML regulation in Canada. These changes are effective immediately and there is no comment period, which is not the norm for such changes.

To help digest these changes, we have summarized what we feel are the most important changes below:

The definition for an electronic funds transfer has been removed and the corresponding section within the body of the regulations was amended. Previous exemptions related to remitting or transmitting from one person or entity to another by Credit or Debit Card, or Prepaid Payment Product if the beneficiary has an agreement with the payment service provider that permits payment for the provision of goods and services, has been revoked for money services businesses, which as we mentioned now includes Payment Service Providers.

The definitions section was amended by adding the following:

  • crowdfunding platform means a website or an application or other software that is used to raise funds or virtual currency through donations. (plateforme de sociofinancement)
  • crowdfunding platform services means the provision and maintenance of a crowdfunding platform for use by other persons or entities to raise funds or virtual currency for themselves or for persons or entities specified by them.

With these changes, crowdfunding platforms and payment service providers will now be subject to existing money services businesses requirements. These obligations include:

  • Registration with FINTRAC;
  • Developing a compliance program;
  • Customer identification and due diligence;
  • Transaction monitoring and customer risk scoring;
  • Reporting certain transactions to regulators and government agencies;
  • Complying with Ministerial Directives; and
  • Keeping records.

Specific to record keeping, crowdfunding platforms that provide services to persons or entities in Canada where a person donates an amount of CAD 1,000 or more in funds or virtual currency will need to:

(a) keep an information record in respect of the person or entity to which they provide those services;

(b) keep a record of the purpose for which the funds or virtual currency are being raised; and

(c) if the person or entity for which the funds or virtual currency are being raised is different from the person or entity referred to in paragraph (a),

      1. keep a record of their name, and
      2. take reasonable measures to obtain their address, the nature of their principal business or their occupation and, in the case of a person, their date of birth, and keep a record of the information obtained.

What Next?

Due to these changes, FINTRAC will need to revise its interpretation of existing requirements to include crowdfunding platforms and payment service providers. There is no set date for when we can expect guidance from FINTRAC. Additionally, various FINTRAC policy interpretations will no longer be able to be relied upon (i.e. policy interpretations related to merchant services as well as payment processing for utility bills, mortgage and rent, payroll, and tuition being exempt from AML obligations). The hope is FINTRAC will issue new policy interpretations, but for now the industry is left with many questions.

We’re Here To Help

If you would like assistance in understanding what these changes mean to your business, or if you need help in creating or updating your compliance program and processes, please get in touch.

We’re Hiring!

We’re looking for an AML compliance person. Initially, this is going to be a part-time / backfill role, but we’d love for it to be a permanent role (either part time or full time, depending on the need and fit). We have a team member that will be taking some time off shortly, and we were at the point that we were talking about bringing on another compliance ninja before that. We take bringing on new team members very seriously. We’re a small group, and we work very well together. We’d be lying if we said that “can we just handle the work ourselves?” isn’t something that was brought up (multiple times). You’re reading this posting because we need a very capable human, and maybe that’s you.

While we know many great folks, we’ve chosen to post this role publicly in the interest of widening the possible field to include candidates that we might not know personally.

What does the job actually entail?
We’re compliance consultants. Our practice includes anti-money laundering (AML), privacy, and regulatory compliance. Most of the companies that we work with are AML reporting entities (banks, credit unions, money services businesses, securities dealers, dealers in precious metals and stones, etc.). Our work is project based. Those projects include:

  • Developing and updating policies, procedures and risk assessments;
  • Designing and delivering training;
  • Conducting effectiveness reviews;
  • Helping clients to prepare for reviews and regulatory examinations;
  • Helping clients to remediate review and regulatory examination findings; and
  • Helping clients with compliance related questions.

In order to do this effectively, we believe that you need to have deep, hands-on experience in these areas. This is why all of our team members have over 10,000 hours of in-house compliance experience. This is non-negotiable.

What you’ll love about working at Outlier
We think that our team is pretty great: we’re all professional, friendly, and incredibly nerdy.

No two days are the same: we work on different projects that move at different paces. As long as the desired outcome is delivered on time, you can work at your pace from your location. Occasionally we may need to be onsite with our clients but most work is done remotely.

Our clients are professionals, entrepreneurs and thought leaders: we learn as much from our clients as they learn from us. It is often an absolutely incredible journey.

The compensation model is radically transparent and tied to individual performance: our consultants earn a share of the revenue related to each project in which they participate. These are democratic decisions that are visible to the whole team, ensuring fairness.

What might terrify you, but shouldn’t stop you
We think that our team is pretty great: at first, we’re going to seem intimidating and cliquey. We’ll do everything that we can to bring you into the fold, but you’re going to have to identify and ask for what you need.

No two days are the same: sometimes things get hectic and it can be stressful. You’ll need to be able to provide your own structure and manage your own schedule.

Our clients are professionals, entrepreneurs and thought leaders: they will push boundaries and ways of thinking, and they won’t always be compliance-minded.

The compensation model is radically transparent and tied to individual performance: openly discussing compensation can be awkward at first. We’ll try to remember that and be empathetic.

Some things that we think are probably true about the right candidate

  • You’re really good at what you do, but you are never satisfied.
  • Every time you’ve left a job, they’ve had to hire several people to replace you. You try not to gloat about this too much, but sometimes you can’t help it.
  • When put in charge of a well-functioning system, you’re likely to test “process improvements” until something breaks.
  • You’re at your very best when you’re fixing something broken or building something new – those challenges invigorate you.
  • When a business person tells you what they want to build, you immediately start thinking about how to execute their ideas within the parameters of existing law and regulation.
  • The phrase “that’s the way we’ve always done it” makes you either shudder or clench your jaw.
  • In your spare time, you probably also make or build something.

Want to apply?
Send an email with your resume attached in PDF format to: ninjas@outliercanada.com by May 13, 2022.
The subject line should read: Compliance Ninja, 2022
In the body of the email, please indicate why you believe that you would be a good fit, referencing this posting, as well as where you clocked your 10,000 hours of in-house compliance practice. Please feel free to include any questions that you have for us at the outset as well.
Please note that messages submitted in any other formats via any other channels will not be considered. Only applicants selected for an interview will be contacted.

Outlier Solutions Inc. Offering Compliance Services to the Metaverse in Decentraland

February 23, 2022 Toronto — Outlier Solutions Inc. doing business as Outlier Compliance Group, a consultancy specializing in compliance solutions for reporting entities ranging from banks to dealers in virtual currencies (like bitcoin) to real estate firms, is one of the first to offer compliance services in the metaverse. Outlier will be joining as one of the professional service providers setting up shop in conjunction with Grinhaus Law Firm, a leading Canadian law firm in Blockchain regulatory advisory, and DGM Financial Group, a prominent Trust and corporate services office which helps structure crypto businesses internationally, in Decentraland, to service clients globally and through the metaverse.

Visitors to Decentraland will now be able to visit Outlier’s office, and book meetings with one of the team members. Visitors can discuss their Canadian compliance needs on topics such as Canadian anti-money laundering (AML), counter terrorist financing (CTF), privacy, and regulatory compliance management. Virtual spaces include traditional offices and a fountain (and of course, meetings can also be requested in person and via more traditional virtual meeting software). The Decentraland office is located at -39, 121, in the same neighbourhood as Decentraland University.

“The world, actual and virtual, is evolving rapidly” said Outlier’s Founder and CEO, Amber D. Scott. “It’s important to understand what shape that evolution is taking, and no better way to learn than to be involved directly.” She adds, “It just makes sense that in order to be good advisors to companies operating in the metaverse, we would be there too.”

Scott’s avatar in Decentraland checks out the new virtual office space.

Founder of Grinhaus Law Firm, Aaron Grinhaus, stated, “we are pleased to welcome Outlier Solutions Inc. and complement our line up of professional services to help people and businesses navigate the ‘gray areas’ and legitimize the existence of the metaverse.”

Decentraland, with its 800,000+ residents and $54B in transactions, is also home to a wide array of companies and institutions from academia to crypto companies to fashion. This represents an opportunity to strategically grow Outlier’s presence as well as participate in the booming growth and creation in the metaverse.

Please direct media inquiries to decentraland@outliercanada.com.

About Outlier Solutions Inc.
Outlier Solutions Inc. dba Outlier Compliance Group is a Canadian consulting firm, founded in August of 2013, which is focused on developing compliance solutions for reporting entities. Outlier’s areas of expertise include anti-money laundering (AML), counter terrorist financing (CTF), privacy, and regulatory compliance.

For further information please visit https://www.outliercanada.com

About Grinhaus Law Firm
Grinhaus Law Firm was established in 2012 and is a business, tax and regulatory focused firm with a niche expertise in Blockchain and Smart Contract law.

For further information please visit https://grinhauslaw.ca

About DGM Financial Group
DGM Financial Group is a global financial services firm that provides Trust Administration, Corporate Services, Management Services to insurance and non-insurance companies, Family Office, Director Services, and is a Listing Sponsor on the Barbados Stock Exchange.

For further information please visit https://dgmfinancialgroup.com/

About Decentraland
Decentraland is the first fully decentralized virtual world. Powered by DAO, which owns the most important smart contracts and assets of Decentraland. Decentraland is a software running on Ethereum that seeks to incentivize a global network of users to operate a shared virtual world. Decentraland users can buy and sell digital real estate, while exploring, interacting and playing games within this virtual world.

For further information please visit https://decentraland.org

Fraud & Reasonable Grounds to Suspect

One of the themes that was prevalent in Canadian AML for 2021 was the relatively low bar represented by “reasonable grounds to suspect” (RGS) and the types of transactions for which FINTRAC expected suspicious transaction reports (STRs) to be filed. One of our astute colleagues worked with us to craft some specific scenarios (the full version, including FINTRAC’s response, can be viewed here), and FINTRAC’s response seems to confirm a significant shift in position from previous discussions. Specifically, STRs are expected in cases of fraud, including cases in which the reporting entity’s client is believed to be the victim of fraud.

Here is a scenario that we asked about:

Scenario 2

A client reaches out to notify us that they sent the virtual currency to another party who promised them a generous short-term return. The client never received the promised funds and believes they have been defrauded. We review the customer account activity and do not find any anomalous activity either prior to or after the client sent the virtual currency to the wallet provided by the fraudster. The client appears to have sent their own funds to the fraudster and there is no account activity corresponding to any irregular transactions, including money mule indicators. Our client is simply a victim of fraud.

Based on strictly these facts, context and indicators, we have not reached reasonable grounds to suspect any money laundering or terrorist financing offences by our client. There may be downstream suspicion related to the wallet where the fraudulently obtained funds were sent but we do not have any suspicion based solely on our client’s transactions which include the transmission of virtual currency to that other wallet. We do not have any information or suspicion related to the other wallet except for the knowledge that our client’s virtual currency was sent to it.

Given the above, we believe no STR would be required. Could you please confirm our position? If the position taken here does not seem correct, please provide an underlying rationale.

And an excerpt from FINTRAC’s response:

In scenario 2, an STR should be submitted if the reporting entity reached reasonable grounds to suspect that the transaction or attempted transaction is related to fraud.

Not Just for Virtual Currency

While the scenario that we’ve provided is specific to virtual currency, the implications of this policy interpretation are not limited to transactions that involve virtual currencies. Every reporting entity type will deal with suspected and confirmed cases of fraud that touch their business models.

Why Does It Matter

To really get to why this matters so much, we need to first look at the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA), which is where the requirement is first defined in Section 7:

Transactions if reasonable grounds to suspect

7 Subject to section 10.1, every person or entity referred to in section 5 shall, in accordance with the regulations, report to the Centre every financial transaction that occurs or that is attempted in the course of their activities and in respect of which there are reasonable grounds to suspect that

(a) the transaction is related to the commission or the attempted commission of a money laundering offence; or

(b) the transaction is related to the commission or the attempted commission of a terrorist activity financing offence.

This is important as the provision of the PCMLTFA (the section number) is what’s listed in the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations, where potential penalties are defined. Violations of Section 7 of the PCMLTFA are considered “very serious”. In turn, a “very serious” violation can lead to a penalty of up to $500,000 – for each instance.

If you’re a quantitative type quietly working out the rough number of fraud cases that your reporting entity has had recently, multiplying by $500,000, and feeling a bit nervous, you are not alone.

What’s Next?

While guidance and policy interpretations do not carry the force of law, this is often a distinction without a difference. Might a reporting entity take an appeal to federal court and win? Perhaps…though under the existing rules, that reporting entity’s name will be published (required where the violation is considered to be “very serious”), which for some reporting entities would have significant consequences, including the loss of vital banking partner relationships. Further, the cost of competent representation in a federal appeal process is well beyond the means of most small and mid-sized reporting entities.

Industry associations will, no doubt, continue to lead important conversations with FINTRAC and seek clarification for their members.

In the meantime, for most Canadian reporting entities, the most pragmatic decision will likely be to devise internal guidelines that include reporting STRs related to fraud cases.

Need a Hand?

If you want to make updates to your compliance program to reflect this new policy interpretation, or assistance with Canadian AML generally, please contact us.

Proliferation Financing

 

 

 

 

What is it, and why should AML compliance professionals be paying attention?

If you’ve looked at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s recommendations recently, you’ve no doubt noticed that there are now three big topics on the covering page:

  • Money laundering,
  • Terrorist financing, and
  • Proliferation.

The last of these has received considerably less attention until recently, and in many cases, it may not be explicitly included in either jurisdiction-specific legislation or compliance programs. While some elements of proliferation are generally included (for instance, it is rare to see a compliance program that does not address sanctions-related list screening), there is often little if any consideration given to risks such as sanctions evasion or the non-implementation of sanctions.

According to the FATF, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation refers to the manufacture, acquisition, possession, development, export, trans-shipment, brokering, transport, transfer, stockpiling or use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery and related materials (including both dual-use technologies and dual use goods used for non-legitimate purposes). The financing of proliferation refers to the risk of raising, moving, or making available funds, other assets or other economic resources, or financing, in whole or in part, to persons or entities for purposes of WMD proliferation, including the proliferation of their means of delivery or related materials (including both dual-use technologies and dual-use goods for non-legitimate purposes). There are targeted financial sanctions intended to prevent specific jurisdictions, organizations, and persons from participating in any proliferation-related activities.

In Canada, reporting entities have strict obligations to comply with sanctions requirements.

Similarly, terrorists and terrorist groups are often subject to financial sanctions and prohibitions. All accounts and transactions are scanned against listed persons and entities. In the case that we have property (including money and investments) in our possession that belongs to a listed person or entity, it must be frozen and reported immediately.

Recommendation 1 requires countries and private sector entities to identify, assess, and understand “proliferation financing risks”. In the context of Recommendation 1, “proliferation financing risk” refers strictly and only to the potential breach, non-implementation or evasion of the targeted financial obligations referred to in Recommendation 7. These R.7 obligations apply to two country-specific regimes for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran, require countries to freeze without delay the funds or other assets of, and to ensure that no funds and other assets are made available, directly or indirectly to or for the benefit of (a) any person or entity designated by the United Nations (UN), (b) persons and entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, (c) those owned or controlled by them. The full text of Recommendations 1 and 7 is set out at Annex A.

Canadian reporting entities will be familiar with Ministerial Directives related to North Korea and Iran that impose additional requirements, as well as providing indicators of activity related to these jurisdictions. While we may not be used to thinking about these requirements as being controls related to proliferation financing risk, this is exactly what they are. We may also fail to consider how they fit into our overall compliance regimes.

Proliferation Financing Trends and Typologies

It is not enough to simply say that your business does not deal with these jurisdictions directly. In many cases, funds are not actually repatriated to these jurisdictions but are held in other countries. For instance, identified state-sponsored North Korean hacking groups have moved stolen funds and virtual currencies through the Philippines, Macau, and China. In addition, actors intending to circumvent sanctions are known to be relatively proficient in using false and manufactured identities, as well as well as organizational structures intended to obfuscate true beneficial ownership. In the FATF’s webinar on proliferation financing, the global watchdog noted that proliferation financing may be one of the most challenging threats to detect in action, due to its complex nature.

Helpful Resources

Late in 2021, the FATF conducted an excellent webinar on proliferation financing risk assessment and mitigation, which has now been posted publicly. This presentation includes an excellent high-level overview, as well as detailed discussions of the trends and typologies that are relevant today.

It can be useful to review the aspects of the FATF’s recommendations that refer to proliferation.

There is additional guidance from the FATF on proliferation financing risk assessment and mitigation. This is a detailed document focused entirely on proliferation financing, and the FATF’s expectations.

The UK has conducted a national level assessment of proliferation financing risk. This includes a number of relevant case studies and typologies. If you want the sense of it, but are short on time, our friend Dev Odedra has published a summary.

Manchester CF has launched a proliferation financing training module as part of the Financial Intelligence Specialist (FIS) designation, offered in conjunction with the University of Newhaven.

Need a Hand?

If you want to get ahead of the curve by having a conversation about proliferation financing risk and potential impacts to your compliance program, please contact us.

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