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Are Your Business Relationship Records Ready for FINTRAC?

This article is focused on business relationships that are not account-based (which means that if you are a financial institution or a securities dealer that only conducts transactions with your customers in the context of the accounts that they hold with you, you can skip this one).

Over the past few months, I have assisted some of my clients with their Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) examinations.  While I cannot generally answer questions on my clients’ behalf during these meetings, I can help them prepare for the examination, understand what the examiner is asking for, and redirect them if they stray off track (provided that they have signed an Authorizing_or_Cancelling_a_Representative form). While the businesses examined were quite different in size and complexity, their examinations have been similar, particularly when it came to questions about business relationships.  

For certain types of reporting entities, including money services businesses (MSBs), real estate businesses, and dealers in precious metals and stones (DPMSs) (which are the focus of this article), during each on-site review, the FINTRAC examiner requested a list of all the “Business Relationships” for the review period. Certain information was requested, which was the same in each instance, and included the following:

  • The purpose and intended nature of the business relationship (sometimes called PINBR for short);
  • The risk rating;
  • The date the reporting entity entered into a business relationship with the customer; 
  • The records of any ongoing monitoring (or enhanced measures for high risk business relationships) that has been conducted; and 
  • The last time the customer information was reviewed/updated.

In most cases, this information was not requested in advance.  This meant that it needed to be provided to the examiner while the examiner was on-site (typically a single business day).  For some reporting entities, obtaining this information was not something that their recordkeeping systems were set up to do easily.

Quick Review – What is a Business Relationship?

The Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations (PCMLTFR) defines a Business Relationship as:

Any relationship with a client, established by a person or entity, to conduct financial transactions or provide services related to those transactions and, as the case may be,

(a) If the client holds one or more accounts with that person or entity, all transactions and activities relating to those accounts; or

(b) If the client does not hold an account, only those transactions and activities in respect of which that person or entity is required to ascertain the identity of a person or confirm the existence of an entity under these Regulations.

If you’re not entirely certain what that means, FINTRAC’s guidance on Business Relationship Requirements provides additional clarification:

You enter into a Business Relationship when you conduct two or more transactions where you have to:

    1. ID an individual; or
    2. Confirm the existence of an organization.

Specifically, conducting the following transactions or activities that require you to identify an individual or confirm the existence of an entity:

  • Remittances or transmissions of $1,000 or more (for MSBs);
  • Foreign currency exchange of $3,000 or more (for MSBs);
  • Issuing or redeeming negotiable instruments of $3,000 or more (for MSBs);
  • Large cash transactions (for all reporting entity types);
  • Suspicious transactions and attempted suspicious transactions (for all reporting entity types);
  • Activities which trigger a receipt of funds record (for Real Estate);
  • Virtual currency exchange transactions of $1,000 or more (for MSBs as of June 1, 2020);
  • Large Virtual Currency Transactions Reports (for all reporting entities as of June 1, 2020); and
  • Activities which trigger the creation of a client information record (it’s probably worth mentioning here that these will also trigger a third party determination):
    • Entering into an ongoing service agreement with a customer that is an entity (for MSBs); and/or
    • Entering into a purchase or sale agreement (for Real Estate).

In its simplest form, a business relationship means that a client or customer has done two things that cause identification requirements to be triggered.

Business Relationship Recordkeeping & Monitoring

When you establish a Business Relationship with a customer, you have three things to do.  

First, determine and record the “purpose and intended nature” of the Business Relationship. Some examples provided in the FINTRAC guidance are: 

For MSBs:

  • Foreign exchange for travel or purchase of goods; 
  • Funds transfers for family support or purchase of goods; 
  • Buying/cashing money orders or traveller’s cheques; 

For Real Estate businesses:

  • Purchasing or selling residential property;
  • Purchasing or selling commercial property;
  • Purchase or selling land for commercial use;

For DPMSs:

  • Purchasing or selling jewellery;
  • Purchasing or selling precious metals (for example, gold, silver, platinum, or palladium); and
  • Purchasing or selling precious stones (for example, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, tanzanite, rubies, or alexandrite).

Next, you need to conduct ongoing monitoring of all Business Relationships, based on the level of risk.  This seems to be where the biggest stumbling blocks are for reporting entities. The purpose of ongoing monitoring is to ensure the following:

  • Detect any transactions that need to be reported as suspicious;
  • Keep identification and beneficial ownership information, as well as the purpose and intended nature records, up-to-date;
  • Reassess the risk level based on their transactions and activities; and 
  • Determine if the transactions make sense given the nature and purpose recorded.

It is not enough just to conduct the monitoring, you must be able to produce some type of record that proves that you’ve done the monitoring. The record should be specific about what was done, and what conclusions were drawn.

If there is something out of the ordinary, expect that the FINTRAC examiner will ask questions. For example, if a customer has indicated that the purpose and intended nature of the business relationship is “fund transfer for family support” but it is clear that payments are being made that are related to the purchase of goods, questions will be raised. It is expected that information about the purpose and intended nature of the business relationship is updated if it has changed – and that you will ask questions when the actual transaction patterns are different than what you expected.

It is this final step, keeping a record of the measures taken to monitor your business relationships and the information you obtain as a result, that is most crucial to successful examination results. 

The additional information collected about the customer is used to compare your expectations for that relationship, with the transactions that customer is conducting.  

Here are a few examples, broken down by industry:

MSBs

If the nature and purpose provided was foreign exchange for travel, does it make sense that the customer returns every other day with $2,700 in cash?   

DPMSs

If the nature and purpose provided was purchasing jewellery as a wedding gift, does it make sense that the customer returns every month on the same day to make a new purchase?

Real Estate

If the nature and purpose provided was the purchase of a first-time owner-occupied home, does it make sense that the customer purchases another owner-occupied home shortly after?  

In each of the scenarios above, it is quite clear that the activities don’t align with the nature and purpose of the business relationship collected. This doesn’t automatically make it suspicious, but certainly leaves some questions that need answering. When you question the customer about the discrepancy, be sure you’re taking notes.  This does not have to be a complete reiteration (though it can be), but simply a brief synopsis of the conversation, any additional information collected and/or adjustments made to the customer’s risk rating. It should be written in a way that would be clear to someone from outside of your business that is reading the notes two years later.

Recording these types of discussions is paramount to evidence that you’re meeting your ongoing monitoring obligations because, in the compliance world, if you can’t prove it… it never happened.

FINTRAC Exam Readiness Tool for Business Relationships

We’ve made a quick checklist to help you prepare for your FINTRAC examinations.

Question Response & Action Plan
Can I generate a list of my business relationships for the examination period?
Is there a risk rating recorded for each business relationship?
Do I have evidence of ongoing monitoring being conducted?
Do I have evidence of enhanced due diligence and enhanced transaction monitoring for high risk business relationships?
Do I have the date of when I entered in the business relationship with each customer?
Is there a record of the last time the customer information was reviewed and/or updated?

 

Need a Hand?

Outlier has created a FINTRAC Examination Preparation Package, and it can be downloaded for free here.  FINTRAC has also provided information on their assessment manual, which details the approach and methods it uses to conduct compliance examinations

For additional information, assistance, or a review of your FINTRAC Examination submission package (the information requested by FINTRAC for an examination), you can get in touch using our online form, by emailing info@outliercanada.com, or by calling us toll-free at 1-844-919-1623.  At Outlier, we firmly believe that good compliance is good business.

Information Should Be Free!

Outlier has produced an open-source AML and CTF, and Privacy repositories of definitions, acronyms, and terminology that is free for whoever wants it.

Please feel free to provide contributions and/or feedback, as it would be greatly appreciated. We have already had three contributors!

Discombobulated

About a year ago, we had a client who was interacting with the world of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Terrorist Financing (CTF) for the first time. They were aggravated by the amount of jargon, acronyms, and uncommon uses of certain commonly understood terms. An example is, a business relationship. Those of you that are relatively familiar with the AML space know a business relationship doesn’t mean what the rest of the world thinks it means. In Canada, in the AML context, it means something very different.

A Helping Hand

At the time, they wished for a simple reference point where they could easily find the meaning for different terms. Unfortunately, this entails combing multiple locations, including FINTRAC’s website, plus the Act and Regulations themselves. To make a long story short, there is no easy way. Fed up, they (not so) gently suggested that we (Outlier) fix this. Their idea was creating a GitHub repository.

For those unfamiliar with GitHub, it is a web-based hosting service for version control. It is mostly used for computer code, but has also been used to write and edit books. It offers access control and several collaboration features. A GitHub repository is where the code and/or information is maintained for a specific project. This process is fairly simple to someone who is a coder with years of experience working with GitHub. For myself, this was not so simple. A year later, almost to the day, the repository is created, open and available to the public. There is no need to be scared, you are able to comment and make suggestions without knowing how to code at all. If you can’t figure out how to provide commentary in GitHub, send it to use via email at info@outliercanada.com with the subject line “GitHub Feedback.”

The Power of Collaboration

The (not so) gentle nudge meshed well with one of Outlier’s core beliefs: that information should be free. By collecting the information, housing it in GitHub, and making it available to anyone, we are able to provide free information to everyone who wants it. By making information free and public, it gives others the opportunity to make suggestions, add content, and improve the quality of the information.

What Happens When We Work Together?

By sharing this open-source project with the world, we are looking to empower anyone willing to be empowered. From the client who is interacting with the world of AML for the first time. To the seasoned-veteran who is looking for helpful resources. To the person who wants to provide their customer with a helpful resource. Take the information and do what you wish with it. If you would like to attribute Outlier, awesome! If not, that’s ok too. Our only request is this should never be provided for a fee.

Have a Question?

If you looked at the resource and are curious about how to make a contribution, please feel free to contact us anytime. Contributions can include anything from corrections and suggestions, to the addition of different jurisdictional definitions, specifically the European perspective.

This is not a solicitation (but we do get this request often), should you want to provide a tip in BTC or ETH, our addresses are listed below.

To open a channel with our Lightning Node, our address is: 03acb418d5b88c0009cf07d31ec53d0486814bc77917c352bd7e952520edf7bf3c@99.236.76.38:9735

or you can use Tippin.Me.

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FINTRAC Alert – Laundering the Proceeds of a Romance Scam

Quick Overview

On April 11th, 2019, FINTRAC published an Operational Alert issued in part with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.  The information provided related to laundering the proceeds of romance scams and mass marketing fraud. The publication provided an explanation of what constitutes a romance scam, some common indicators that may be present and transaction patterns or flow of funds that may suggest fraud.

What Does it Mean?

The suspicious indicators provided by FINTRAC list circumstances or activities that might signal potential cases of individuals caught in a romance scam or the subject of a mass marketing fraud.  This does not mean that if one or more of the indicators are present that the transaction is definitely suspicious and must be reported to FINTRAC. It is meant to ensure that you are aware of the potential that suspicious activity may be taking place.  In that context, if you are involved in customer’s transactions, whether on the front lines or in back office, you must be aware of the indicators in the alert.  If you do encounter a transaction that may be considered unusual, you should attempt to collect additional information that will aid in the Compliance Officer’s decision to report it or clearly document why it was not considered suspicious. Where the Compliance Officer makes the decision to report the transaction to FINTRAC as suspicious, be sure to include “Project CHAMELEON” or “#CHAMELEON” in Part G—Description of suspicious activity in the STR. This will help to facilitate FINTRAC’s disclosure process.

What Now?

In order to ensure familiarity for anyone who interacts with customers and their transactions, the list of FINTRAC’s indicators should be included in your ongoing AML compliance training program.  Furthermore, the indicators should also be included in your procedure manuals, allowing easy access to the information.  Finally, the indicators should be incorporated into your Risk Assessment documentation.  Specifically, when determining customer risk and the controls used to effectively mitigate potential risks.

We’ve made it easier for you to integrate this content into your program by putting the indicators in a Word document for you.

Need a Hand?

Outlier has taken the list of indicators provided by FINTRAC and formatted them into an easy to use Microsoft Word document, which can be found here.  This should allow companies to easily update their documentation and ensure they are sufficiently monitoring for potential instances of romance scams or mass marketing fraud. If you aren’t sure what to do with this information and would like some assistance, please feel free to contact us.

AML Changes For The Real Estate Sector

Here We Go Again! Canada’s Proposed AML Changes for Real Estate Developers, Brokers and Sales Representatives

 

On June 9th, 2018, draft amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its enacted regulations (there are five separate regulations that we’re going to collectively call regulations here for simplicity’s sake). This article is intended to give a high-level summary of the proposed amendments as they relate to the real estate industry.

This article should not be considered advice (legal, tax or otherwise). That said, any of the content shared here may be used and shared freely – you don’t need our permission. While we’d love for content that we’ve written to be attributed to us, we believe that it’s more important to get reliable information into the hands of community members (meaning that if you punk content that we wrote, we may think you’re a jerk but we’re not sending an army of lawyers).

Finally, we want to encourage the community to discuss the proposed changes and submit meaningful feedback for policy makers. The comment period for this draft is 90 days. After this, the Department of Finance takes the feedback to the bat cave and drafts a final version of the amendments. From the time that the final version is published, the draft indicates that there will be 12 months of transition to comply with the new requirements.

What does this mean for my business?

While there are quite a number of proposed changes (the draft is about 200 pages in length), some are likely to have more of an impact on for real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives than others. We’ve summarized the changes that we expect to have the most impact below. Remember these are just proposed changes so there is no need to update your compliance material just yet.

What’s New?

Virtual Currency:

While there are not many proposed amendments that will introduce new requirements for real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives the draft regulations introduce reporting requirements for the receipt of CAD 10,000 or more of virtual currency. These basically are the same as large cash reporting obligations and will require reporting entities to maintain a large virtual currency transaction record.

The requirements for reporting and recordkeeping for virtual currency will be very similar to cash reporting requirements.

What existing requirements are changing?

24-hour rule:

The draft regulations clarify that multiple transactions performed by or on behalf of the same customer or entity within a 24-hour period are considered a single transaction for reporting purposes when they total CAD 10,000 or more. Only one report would need to be submitted to capture all transactions that aggregate to CAD 10,000 or more. For real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives this would apply to recipient of cash deposits. Specifically, this will apply to large cash transactions or CAD 10,000 or more. 

Identification:

The draft regulations replace the word “original” with “authentic” and states that a document used for verification of identity must be “authentic, valid and current. This would allow for scanned copies of documentation and/or for software that can authenticate identification documents to be used for the dual process method for real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives that identify clients in a non-face-to-face manner. Another change, related to measures for verifying identity, is that the word “verify” has been replaced with “confirm” and “ascertain” has been replaced with confirm. What this will mean exactly is still unclear (FINTRAC will need to provide more guidance once the final amendments are released). We are hopeful that it will allow for easier customer identification – especially for customers outside of Canada.

Records:

There have been some changes to the details that must be recorded in records that real estate broker or sales representative must maintain. In particular, the draft regulations add the requirement that information records must contain details of every person or entity for which they act as an agent or mandatary in respect of the purchase or sale of real property. Under the existing regulations information related to the person or entity purchasing real estate only.

Risk Assessment:

Under current regulations, reporting entities are required to assess the risks associated with its business and develop a risk assessment specific to your situation. For real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives a risk assessment must address the following four areas:

  • Products, services, and delivery channels (to better reflect the reality of the real estate sector, this workbook will now only refer to services and delivery channels);
  • Geography;
  • Clients and business relationships; and
  • Other relevant factors

A proposed amendment would require all reporting entities to assess the risk related the use of new technologies, before they are implemented.  This has been a best practice since the requirement to conduct a risk assessment came into force, but this change would make this a formal requirement.

Suspicious Transaction Reporting:

Under current regulations if a reporting entity has reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction or attempted transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing, a report must be submitted to FINTRAC within 30 days of the date that a fact was discovered that caused the suspicion. The revised regulations add to this requirement by stating:

The person or entity shall send the report to the Centre within three days after the day on which measures taken by them enable them to establish that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the transaction or attempted transaction is related to the commission of a money laundering offence or a terrorist activity financing offence.

This would require reports to be submitted to FINTRAC within three days after the reporting entity conducts an analysis that established reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Schedules:

The draft regulations introduce changes to reporting schedules, requiring more detailed information to be filed with FINTRAC then previously was required. This is in addition to including information that is marked as optional, if a reporting entity has the information. As it relates real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives these changes will impact attempted suspicious and suspicious transaction reporting, terrorist property reporting and large cash reporting. Some of the additional proposed data fields are:

  • every reference number that is connected to the transaction,
  • every other known detail that identifies the receipt (of cash for large cash transactions),
  • type of device used by person who makes request online,
  • number that identifies device,
  • internet protocol address (IP address) used by device,
  • person’s user name, and
  • date and time of person’s online session in which request is made.

Such changes may be onerous for reporting entities, especially for transactions that are conducted online.

Training:

Under current regulation, if real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives use agents, mandataries or other persons to act on their behalf, they must develop and maintain a written, ongoing compliance training program for those agents, mandataries or other persons. The draft regulations introduces an additional requirement in which there must be a documented plan for the ongoing compliance training program and delivering of that the training.

What’s Next?

If you’ve read this far, congratulations and thank you!

We hope that you will contribute your thoughts and comments. You can do this by contacting the Department of Finance directly. Their representative on this file is:

Lynn Hemmings
Acting Director General
Financial Systems Division
Financial Sector Policy Branch
Department of Finance
90 Elgin Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G5
Email: fin.fc-cf.fin@canada.ca

If you would like assistance drafting a submission, or have questions that you would like Outlier to answer, please get in touch!

Canada’s Proposed AML Changes for MSBs

What’s Old is New Again, Well Updated

On June 9th, 2018, draft amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its enacted regulations (there are five separate regulations that we’re going to collectively call regulations here for simplicity’s sake). This article is intended to give a high-level summary of the proposed amendments as they relate to Money Services Businesses (MSBs).

This article should not be considered advice (legal, tax or otherwise). That said, any of the content shared here may be used and shared freely – you don’t need our permission. While we’d love for content that we’ve written to be attributed to us, we believe that it’s more important to get reliable information into the hands of community members (meaning that if you punk content that we wrote, we may think you’re a jerk but we’re not sending an army of lawyers).

Finally, we want to encourage the community to discuss the proposed changes and submit meaningful feedback for policy makers. The comment period for this draft is 90 days. After this, the Department of Finance takes the feedback to the bat cave and drafts a final version of the amendments. From the time that the final version is published, the draft indicates that there will be 12 months of transition to comply with the new requirements.

♬The Times Regulations Are Changing♬

Foreign MSBs

Currently, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) has issued a policy interpretation (PI-5594) in August of 2013, which states that a “real and substantial connection” to Canada must be present for an entity to be required to register as an MSB with FINTRAC.  A “real and substantial connection” was defined in the interpretation as having one or more of the following:

  • Whether the business is incorporated in Canada;
  • Whether the business has agents in Canada;
  • Whether the business has physical locations in Canada; and/ or
  • Whether the business maintains a bank account or a server in Canada.

The draft amendments introduce a new definition, which is “Foreign Money Services Business” that means anyone serving Canadian customers or entities in Canada is now subject to all Canadian requirements no matter where they are located.  Throughout the proposed changes, where there is a reference to money services businesses, there is also a reference to foreign money services businesses.  This will be significant to MSBs who operate non-face-to-face in the online marketplace and do not reside in Canada.

Non-Face-To-Face Customer Identification

Currently, there is a requirement that when customers are identified using the dual process method, the document and/or data that you collect is in its “original” format. This has been interpreted to mean that if the customer receives a utility bill in the mail, they must send you the original paper (not scanned or copied) document. The word “original” will be replaced with “authentic” (meaning that so long as you believe that the utility bill is a real utility bill for that person, it doesn’t need to be the same piece of paper that they received in the mail).

In addition, there are provisions that would allow reporting entities to rely on the identification conducted previously by other reporting entities. If this method is used to identify a customer, the reporting entity must immediately obtain the identification information from the other reporting entity and have a written agreement in place requiring the entity doing the identification to provide the identification verification within 3 days of the request.

Reporting EFTs of $10,000 or More

If you conduct international remittance transactions at the request of your customers, the requirement to report transactions of $10,000 or more will now be your responsibility, not your financial services provider.

The proposed change removes the language commonly known as the “first in, last out” rule.  This means that the first person/entity to ‘touch’ the funds for transactions incoming to Canada or the last person/entity to ‘touch’ the funds for a transaction outgoing from Canada had the reporting obligation (as long as the prescribed information was provided to them).

The update will change the reporting obligation to whoever maintains the customer relationship. So if you initiate a transaction at your customer’s request (outgoing transaction) or provide final receipt of payment to your customer (incoming transaction), it will be your obligation to report that transaction to FINTRAC.

For example, if the flow of the instructions for payment were as follows:

Currently, the reporting obligation of the outgoing EFT would fall to the bank in Canada.  With the draft updates, the reporting obligation would now fall to the MSB in Canada, because they have the relationship with the customer initiating the transaction.

 

Third Party Determination

Currently, the obligation to determine whether a third party is involved in a transaction relates to Large Cash Transactions.  The proposed changes would include the obligation to make a third party determination for all EFTs of $10,000 or more.  This would also require similar record keeping obligations as a third party determination under the current Large Cash Transaction records.

Suspicious Transaction Reporting

Currently, if a reporting entity has reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction or attempted transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing, a report must be submitted to FINTRAC within 30 days of the date that a fact was discovered that caused the suspicion. This change appeared in the last round of amendments that came into force last year, and the proposed new wording would be another significant change:

The person or entity shall send the report to the Centre within three days after the day on which measures taken by them enable them to establish that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the transaction or attempted transaction is related to the commission of a money laundering offence or a terrorist activity financing offence.

This means that a report would be due three days after the reporting entity conducts an investigation or does something that allows them to reach the conclusion that there are reasonable grounds to suspect.

Information Included In Reports to FINTRAC

Certain information is required in reports to FINTRAC. Even where information is marked as being optional, if a reporting entity has the information, it becomes mandatory to include it. Some of the additional proposed data fields are:

  • every reference number that is connected to the transaction,
  • type of device used by person who makes request online,
  • number that identifies device,
  • internet protocol address (IP address) used by device,
  • person’s user name, and
  • date and time of person’s online session in which request is made.

These fields may require significantly more data to be included in reports, especially for transactions that are conducted online.

Ongoing Compliance Training

Currently, there are five required elements of a Canadian AML compliance program, but there is soon to be a sixth.  Before you get too worried, it’s not that major.  The change is specific to your ongoing compliance training obligations, which says you must institute and document a plan for your ongoing compliance training program and the delivery of the training.  Basically, in your AML compliance program documentation, you need to provide a description of your training program for at least the next year and how the training will be delivered. Many MSBs have already implemented this best practice.

Risk Assessment Obligations

With the recent addition of the “New Technologies and Developments” category to the Risk-Based Approach requirements, the next logical progression has be added.  The updates include the obligation to assess the money laundering and terrorist financing risk of any new technology before implementation.  Meaning, if you are looking to take your business online and are going to use this fancy, new non-face-to-face ID system, you had better take careful inventory of where your risks are and be sure the appropriate controls have been put in place before going live. Much like the training plan, many MSBs have already implemented this best practice.

Virtual Currency

The draft updates also include major changes related to virtual currency. “Dealers in virtual currencies’ would be regulated as MSBs. New record keeping and reporting obligations would apply to all reporting entities that accept payment in virtual currency, or send virtual currency on behalf of their customers.

For more information on updates specific to virtual currency, please check out our full article.

What Next

If you’ve read this far, congratulations and thank you!

We hope that you will contribute your thoughts and comments. You can do this by contacting the Department of Finance directly. Their representative on this file is:

Lynn Hemmings

Acting Director General

Financial Systems Division

Financial Sector Policy Branch

Department of Finance

90 Elgin Street

Ottawa, Ontario

K1A 0G5

Email: fin.fc-cf.fin@canada.ca

If you would like assistance drafting a submission, or have questions that you would like Outlier to answer, please get in touch!

If you are interested in sharing your comments with the Canadian MSB Association (and we highly encourage you to do so) please email luisa@global-currency.com. She will have more information on the industry group’s submission and consultation process.

FINTRAC’s 2016 Real Estate Brief

Quick Overview

A little over a month ago, FINTRAC published an operational brief for the Canadian real estate industry.  The brief was intended to assist reporting entities in meeting the obligations to report suspicious transactions or attempted suspicious transactions that related to potential money laundering or terrorist financing.  The publication provided some common indicators that may be present in a transaction that suggest money laundering or terrorist financing could be involved.

What Does it Mean?

The suspicious indicators provided by FINTRAC list circumstances or activities that might signal potentially illicit activity.  This does not mean that if one or more of the indicators are present that the transaction is definitely suspicious and must be reported to FINTRAC, it is meant to ensure that you are aware of the potential that suspicious activity may be taking place.  In that context, if you are involved in real estate transactions, you must be aware of the indicators in the brief.  If you do encounter a transaction that may be considered suspicious, you will need to collect additional information that will aid in your decision to report it or document why it was not considered suspicious.

What Now?

In order to ensure familiarity for anyone who interacts with customers and their transactions, the list of FINTRAC’s indicators should be included in your ongoing AML compliance training program.  Furthermore, the indicators should also be included in your procedure manuals, allowing easy access to the information.  Finally, the indicators should be incorporated into your Risk Assessment documentation.  Specifically, when determining customer risk and the controls used to effectively mitigate potential risks.

We’ve made it easier for you to integrate this content into your program by putting the indicators in a Word document for you.

Need a Hand?

Outlier has taken the list of indicators provided by FINTRAC and formatted them into an easy to use Microsoft Word document, which can be downloaded here: FINTRAC Indicators Specific to Real Estate Transactions.  This should allow companies within the real estate sector to easily update their documentation and ensure they are sufficiently monitoring for potentially suspicious activity.  If you aren’t sure what to do with this information and would like some assistance, please feel free to contact us.

Would You Recognize Real Estate Red Flags?

Rodney_FINTRACOn November 14th, 2016 FINTRAC released a brief for all reporting entities who may be involved in real estate transactions.  The briefing is intended as guidance to provide some examples of indicators that may be present in transactions that may suggest they are linked to money laundering or terrorist financing.  The indicators described have been taken from transactions suspected of being related to money laundering or terrorist financing reported internationally.  The briefing focuses on the potential risks and vulnerabilities within the real estate industry and provides suggestions on how to ensure reporting entities are sufficiently meeting suspicious transaction reporting obligations.

The briefing is meant to provide operational guidance given the small overall number of suspicious transactions that have been reported to FINTRAC by the Real Estate industry.  The briefing states that these indicators will be used by FINTRAC to assess compliance with your reporting obligations.  If you are a reporting entity that interacts with the real estate industry in one form or another, the indicators and scenarios outlined in this brief should be considered when updating your Risk Assessment and training materials.

To put things into perspective, though the actual size of the real estate market is difficult to determine precisely, CMHC has produced some statistics.  CMHC suggests that between 2003 and 2013 over $9 trillion of mortgage credits were negotiated and roughly 5 million sales took place through Multiple Listing Services (MLS).  In contrast, FINTRAC received only 127 Suspicious Transactions Reports (STRs) from real estate brokers, agents and developers and 152 by other types of reporting entities, such as banks and trust/loan companies.  To go a step further, in FINTRAC’s 2015 Annual Report, between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015, a total of 92,531 STRs were filed across all reporting entities.

 

re-strs-filed-vs-sales

This evidence supports FINTRAC’s assertion that operational guidance for the real estate industry is needed.

The indicators and examples covered in the brief outline numerous scenarios that may suggest that a transaction is related to a money laundering or terrorist financing offense.  It also speaks to how the appearance of legitimacy obfuscates the clarity of suspicious transactions and requires more than a just “gut feel”.  What is required is the consideration of the facts related to the transaction and their context.  Does the transaction with all the known factors, positive or negative, make sense?

 

What This Means to Your Business? 

First off, FINTRAC will be using the indicators provided to assess your compliance with reporting obligations.  This has a couple different applications.  The first being, does your AML compliance program documentation make reference to the suspicious indicators that are provided.  Basically, are staff aware of the elements that may be present in a transaction that would suggest money laundering or terrorist financing may be occurring?

Secondly, is there an oversight process to ensure if there are transactions that contain one or more of these indicators where an STR was not submitted, is reviewed?  If so, does the process ensure supporting evidence that the Compliance Officer reviewed the transaction and determined there were not reasonable grounds to suspect its relation to money laundering or terrorist financing?  When you encounter a transaction involving any of the indicators provided, it is very important that you collect as much information as possible to assist the Compliance Officer with their determination of whether there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction, or attempted transaction, may be related to money laundering or terrorist financing.  Alternatively, even if none of the indicators provided by FINTRAC are present but we still feel there is “something off” about our customer’s transaction, speak with your Compliance Officer.  They will be able to provide some insight on additional information that may assist our decision.  Once you have collected any additional information you may still not feel comfortable, but this does not mean you cannot complete the transaction, but that you must be sure your Compliance Officer is provided with all the information, which includes our reason for the escalation, so that they can decide whether there are reasonable grounds to suspect it may be related to a money laundering or terrorist financing offense.  The Compliance Officer will document their decision and, if necessary, submit an STR to FINTRAC.

Need a Hand?

If you are a reporting entity that interacts with the real estate industry and would like assistance updating your AML compliance program documentation or simply have some questions, please contact us.

Sanctions This Week: July 25th – 29th, 2016

 

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There were no updates released from OSFI this week.

Go to the OSFI lists page.

OFAC

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Branch, The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), released four updates last week.  One update was related to the publication of Cuba-related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), covering some of the recent changes made to the sanctions that had previously been placed on Cuba.  Other updates included the removal of 12 individuals from the Counter Terrorism Designations List, the issuance of a Finding of Violation and the publication of Iran General License J.

OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.  The sanctions target countries, regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the U.S.

The update to the Cuba-related FAQs was for the issuance of a new FAQ (#38) and a revision of an existing FAQ (#39), relating to certain information collection and recordkeeping requirements for persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction who provide authorized carrier or travel services to or from Cuba for specifically licensed travelers.

The update to the Counter Terrorism Designations List included the removal of 12 individuals of Libyan origin who are currently residing in the UK.

The Finding of Violation was issued to Compass Bank, which uses the trade name BBVA Compass, for violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations. From June 12, 2013 to June 3, 2014, Compass maintained accounts on behalf of two individuals on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (the “SDN List”).

The final update of the week was related to OFAC issuing “General License J”, authorizing the re-exportation of certain civil aircraft to Iran on temporary sojourn and related transactions.

See the Cuba-related FAQ update on OFAC’s website.

See the Counter Terrorism Designations List update on OFAC’s website.

See the issuance of a Finding of Violation to Compass Bank on OFAC’s website.

See the Iran General License J details on OFAC’s website.

See OFAC’s recent actions page.

Need A Hand?

We would love to hear from you.  If there are subjects in this post that you would like to know more about, or if you need assistance with your compliance program, please contact us.

Sanctions This Week: July 18th – 22nd, 2016

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On July 18th and 22nd, 2016, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) released the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC’s) Al’Qaida and Taliban regulations updates to the sanctions list, deleting one individual and amending another.

The individuals are subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 2253 (2015) adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.

The review of the individual who was deleted from the list was triggered by regularly scheduled updates.  However, no additional information was available regarding the justification.

The amendment of one individual’s information included the following:

  • A physical description;
  • The confirmation of the most recent position held within the Taliban, as of April 2015; and
  • That they are currently involved in drug trafficking and operate a heroin laboratory in Afghanistan.

See the July 18th update on the United Nations (UN) website.

See the July 22nd update on the United Nations (UN) website.

Go to the OSFI lists page.

OFAC

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Branch, The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), released three updates last week.  One update was related to the addition of three individuals to the Counter Terrorism Designations list.  The second update was related to the addition of multiple individuals and entities to the Syria and Non-proliferation Designations lists.  The final update last week was to the Kingpin Act and Panama-related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding General Licenses.

OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.  The sanctions target countries, regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the U.S.

The changes to the Counter Terrorism Designations list included three individuals of different nationalities, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Algeria, though all have been linked to Al Qa’ida.

The update to the Syria Sanctions list included eight individuals, all of whom are Syrian.  The seven entities, which range from construction, to finance to manufacturing industries and vary in location, which include:

  • Syria;
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis;
  • Cyprus;
  • UAE; and

The update to the Kingpin Act and Panama-related FAQs are specific General License 5B and 6B

See the Counter Terrorism Designations list update on OFAC’s website.

See the Syrian and Non-proliferation Designations lists update on OFAC’s website.

See the Kingpin Act and Panama-related General License FAQs update on OFAC’s website.

See OFAC’s recent actions page.

Need A Hand?

We would love to hear from you.  If there are subjects in this post that you would like to know more about, or if you need assistance with your compliance program, please contact us.

Sanctions This Week: July 11th – 15th, 2016

OSFIOutlier3_036

There were no updates released from OSFI this week.

Go to the OSFI lists page.

OFAC

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Branch, The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), released one update last week.  The update was related to the addition of two Russian individuals who were added to the Counter Terrorism Designations list.

OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.  The sanctions target countries, regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the U.S.

No other information was available on the individuals who were added.

See the Counter Terrorism Designations list update on OFAC’s website.

See OFAC’s Recent Actions page.

Need A Hand?

We would love to hear from you.  If there are subjects in this post that you would like to know more about, or if you need assistance with your compliance program, please contact us.

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