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Don’t Share STRs or STR Data

Recently the Compliance Officer from a small reporting entity reached out to me to ask an uncomfortable question: should they provide copies of the Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) that they had filed with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) to their financial services providers such as a credit union or bank?

This was a difficult situation for the reporting entity’s Compliance Officer because they were afraid of pushing back too much with the financial services provider. Like most non-bank reporting entities, they rely heavily on the services provided by the bank in order to be able to operate their business. Financial service providers, such as banks and credit unions, have the ability to close the accounts of businesses in Canada (often called de-risking), and it can be difficult for some types of reporting entities to establish new banking or payments relationships. The financial services provider in this situation has significantly more power than the reporting entity that is dependent on them.

My gut reaction was that the reporting entity should not disclose the contents of their STR reports, or provide copies. In Canadian legislation, disclosing the fact that an STR was made, or disclosing the contents of such a report, with the intent to “prejudice a criminal investigation” can be punishable as a criminal offence, with penalties of up to 2 years imprisonment (this is also known as “tipping off”). While there did not appear to be any intent to prejudice a criminal investigation in this case, it still seemed like a bad idea. I did a quick check-in with fellow AML geeks on LinkedIn. There are some great comments here, and I had a number of conversations in DMs and by phone. No one seemed to think that the reporting entity should be providing copies of STRs.

The question then became how to best empower the reporting entity to push back effectively. I submitted the following request to FINTRAC and to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC), both of which have mechanisms to allow Canadians and Canadian companies to ask the regulators to opine on matters free of charge:

One of our clients, a Canadian Money services business (MSB) has been asked by their financial services provider (bank/credit union) to provide copies of the suspicious transaction reports (STRs) and Attempted Suspicious Transaction Reports (ASTRs) that have been filed with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) on an ongoing basis. This struck us as being an overreach in terms of the information that should be disclosed to a service provider, and we are reaching out for an opinion on the appropriateness of these requests.

The financial service provider appears to be of the opinion that this is a reasonable request, and that they may close the MSB’s bank account if the STRs and ASTRs are not provided by the MSB.

I let both FINTRAC and OPC know that I had submitted requests to both. So far, only FINTRAC has responded. Their response is below in full (TL:DR: reporting entities should not share copies of STRs reported to FINTRAC).

Thank you for contacting the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), Canada’s independent agency responsible for the receipt, analysis, assessment and disclosure of information in order to assist in the detection, prevention and deterrence of money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities in Canada and abroad.

I am writing further to your email of July 16th, 2020, wherein you requested clarification regarding the sharing of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) submitted to FINTRAC.

As you know, section 8 of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) states that no person or entity shall disclose that they have made, are making, or will make a report under section 7, or disclose the contents of such a report, with the intent to prejudice a criminal investigation, whether or not a criminal investigation has begun.

The PCMLTFA sets out a regime in which the information contained in financial transaction reports sent to FINTRAC (including STRs) is protected from disclosure except in very limited circumstances. The Act also includes specific provisions aimed at protecting the personal information under FINTRAC’s control. For example, as you may be aware, the PCMLTFA is founded on a prohibition on disclosure (s. 55(1), PCMLTFA). Any disclosure of information or intelligence by FINTRAC must fall under one of the exceptions to this prohibition. Outside of these exceptions, FINTRAC is prohibited from disclosing the contents of financial transaction reports, or even acknowledging their existence.

While reporting entities (REs) are not subject to the same prohibitions, FINTRAC strongly believes that STRs should be regarded as highly sensitive documents, given the role FINTRAC plays in the fight against money laundering (ML) and terrorist activity financing (TF) in Canada, and the fact that STRs are a key source of FINTRAC’s intelligence holdings. From FINTRAC’s perspective, it is not in the public interest for REs to disclose financial transaction reports and the information contained therein. Even beyond this, the collection or disclosure of financial transaction reports, including STRs, without a valid purpose and authority, may infringe on legislated privacy protection obligations. Almost all information within financial transaction reports is personal information about an identifiable individual and is considered financial intelligence by

FINTRAC, collected for the sole purpose of reporting to FINTRAC. The potential harm that could occur from the disclosure of the information in these financial transactions reports is great, and includes compromising: (1) police and national security investigations that are both ongoing or could be undertaken in the future; (2) sources of the information/intelligence within the reports, placing those sources at risk of retaliation; and (3) FINTRAC’s compliance activities, given that data provided by REs is always provided in confidence and that confidence is expected to be maintained by all parties. FINTRAC relies on the information included within STRs to support disclosure of financial intelligence to police and other law enforcement and national security organizations, in the interest of detecting, preventing and deterring ML and TF.

Therefore, while your client (MSB) is not prohibited from sharing the STRs it has submitted to FINTRAC with its service provider (Bank/CU), unless it is with the intent to prejudice a criminal investigation, strong consideration should be given to the above.

If you would like a PDF copy of the complete question and policy position for your due diligence files, or to provide to an external party that is requesting copies of your STRs, or information about their content, you can download it here.

Response from FINTRAC – Re_ Sharing Copies of STRs_ASTRs

A version of this Q&A is also now posted on FINTRAC’s website (PI-10662).

The response from OPC, in contrast, was underwhelming. In essence, they will investigate specific complaints, but they will not issue advanced rulings. That said, if any service provider is insisting that copies of STRs must be shared with them, a complaint to the OPC may be an option.

Response from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada – INFO-084075

Need a hand?

If you have AML or privacy-related questions, we can help. 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.

FINTRAC Examinations for the Real Estate Sector

We often hear friends and clients in the real estate sector say they are unsure what to expect if (and when) the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) notifies them of an examination. This article is meant to provide guidance on what to expect and how to ensure a smooth review.

Background

In 2019–20, FINTRAC conducted 399 compliance examinations, of which 146 were focused on the real estate sector [1]. The real estate sector has been the main focus for FINTRAC examinations since 2017 due to the growing concern of money laundering taking place in the Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal real estate market.

For the purpose of assessing compliance, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act gives FINTRAC the authority to inquire into the business of any regulated entity.

FINTRAC examinations are reviews of your compliance program (what you say you are doing to stay in compliance) and your operations (what you’re actually doing to stay in compliance). These exams can take place at any time and should not be confused with your obligation to have an AML Effectiveness Review at least once every two years. FINTRAC examinations can take place in-person onsite at your office, at a FINTRAC office, or over the phone. FINTRAC will provide advance notice of an examination, which is scheduled by telephone and confirmed by letter [2]. Note, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FINTRAC is not currently conducting onsite examinations [3].

I Have Received Notice of an Exam. Now What?

FINTRAC will request documentation, including your compliance policies and procedures, assessment of risks of money laundering and terrorist financing, measures to mitigate high risks, samples of transaction documentation, and other documents be summitted to them. Based on FINTRAC’s areas of review, the below is a sample list of what you can expect to provide. We have also created a more detailed version of the list which you can find here.

  • Most recent version of compliance policies and procedures;
  • Most recent version of your documented risk assessment;
  • Copy of the last two documented internal and/or external reviews of your compliance program (this may include the reviewer’s working papers as well);
  • Training program and records;
  • Organizational Chart;
  • Financial Statements;
  • Number of full-time and part-time employees/sales representative;
  • All suspicious and attempted suspicious transaction records;
  • A list of all closed deals related to the sale/purchase of real estate;
  • In-Trust bank account records; and
  • Large cash transaction records.

You will generally have 30 days to provide all requested documentation to FINTRAC. It’s a good idea to read through the request carefully before you begin your preparation.

Whether you are submitting your materials on paper or in electronic format, it is a good idea to create folders or cover pages for each item that FINTRAC has requested. This creates separate sections for each item and helps you to stay organized. A missed item usually can’t be submitted once the deadline has passed, and can result in deficiencies. We’ve created a sample format for your submission package that you can download for free here.

The Exam

Whether the FINTRAC exam is in-person, at their office or over the phone, they follow very similar formats. The key difference is the regulator’s ability to request additional operational data during onsite examinations.

It is ok for you to take notes throughout the examination process (and we recommend that you do). You are permitted to have a lawyer, consultant or other representative with you (if you do, FINTRAC will request that you complete the Authorized Representative Form in advance). While your representative cannot generally answer questions on your behalf, they can prompt you if you are nervous or stuck, and help you to understand what is being asked of you if it is not clear.

The Introduction

The examiner will provide a brief overview of the examination process as a formal opening to the examination. At the end of this introduction, the examiner will ask if you have any questions. At this point, it can be useful to provide a very brief (five minutes maximum) overview of your business.

Your introduction should reflect the materials that you have already submitted to FINTRAC (which ideally included an opening letter that described anything about the business that would not be readily apparent to the examiner, or anything that you believe could be misunderstood). Key facts about your business include:

  • Your corporate structure and ownership;
  • The types of products and services that are offered/types of transactions that are conducted;
  • Where your offices, agents and customers are located;
  • How you connect with your customers; and
  • Anything significant that has changed since your last FINTRAC examination.

This overview should be simple and brief.  At this point, the examination will then begin. At the end of each section, the examiner will ask if you have any questions and let you know whether there are any deficiencies.

Compliance Policies & Procedures

During this part, FINTRAC will ask questions about the policy and procedure documents that you have provided in advance of the examination. There are a few standard questions that are generally asked:

  • Who wrote the policies and procedures?
  • Were the versions submitted to FINTRAC the most recent versions?
  • When were they last updated?
  • When and how do you identify your customers?
  • How do you ensure that identification is up to date?
  • How do you monitor transactions?
  • How do you recognize, document and monitor “business relationships” (note: this is any time that you have either an ongoing service agreement with a customer and/or your customer has performed two or more transactions that require identification [4]).
  • What are indicators of a suspicious transaction?
  • The examiner will also ask a number of questions based on the documents that you have submitted, including questions about compliance-related processes.

Risk Assessment

During this part, FINTRAC will focus on your Risk Based Approach, asking specific questions about the Risk Assessment and related documents that you have provided in advance of your examination. Again, there are some common questions that are asked:

  • Do you have any high risk customers or business relationships?
  • What factors do you consider in determining that a customer or business relationship is high risk?
  • How are customer due diligence and enhanced due diligence different (both generally, and in your processes and documentation)?

Most additional questions will be related to risk management processes. For example, it has been common in the last few months for examiners to ask if a customer or transaction could be rejected (“Yes, if it was outside of our risk tolerance”).

This may also lead to questions about whether or not an Attempted Suspicious Transaction Report (ASTR) or Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) was filed. If there were reasonable grounds to suspect money laundering or terrorist financing, the answer should be yes. If not, you should explicitly say “There were not reasonable grounds to believe that this event was related to money laundering or terrorist financing”, then provide an explanation.

Operational Compliance & Reporting

During this part, the examiner will ask questions about specific transactions/deals. Some of the cases that you must be ready to explain are:

  • A transaction matches an indicator of potentially suspicious activity (if there were reasonable grounds to suspect money laundering or terrorist financing, the answer should be that you filed an STR, if not, you should explicitly say that “there were not reasonable grounds to believe that this event was related to money laundering or terrorist financing”, then provide an explanation);
  • Questions related to receipt of funds and large cash transactions; and
  • Business relationships and ongoing monitoring (in particular, if this did not occur earlier in the examination).

During a desk examination, the examiners typically do not request additional materials.

During onsite examinations, it has become commonplace for examiners to request additional materials. These are generally related to:

  • Business relationships;
  • Ongoing monitoring (including the monitoring of business relationships);
  • High risk customers;
  • Enhanced due diligence; and
  • Other risk-based processes.

Be clear with the examiner about what can be extracted easily from your IT systems, and in the case that data cannot be extracted easily, be prepared to show the examiner an example (or several). If your system has an “auditor access” feature (generally read-only access with search capability), it can be useful to set this up in advance of the onsite visit.

Exit Interview

Congratulations – you’ve made it to the finish line!

At this point, the examiner will sum up the findings (if there are any), and read a standard disclosure statement. For most of us, the disclosure statement is terrifying, as it talks about penalties. This is standard process – do not be alarmed. When the examiner has finished, you may ask if a penalty is being recommended (if you’re a worrier, please do this). Not all FINTRAC examiners will provide guidance at this stage, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

After the Exit Interview

After the examination and exit interview, generally within 30 days, you will receive a formal letter that details FINTRAC’s findings. The letter will state either of these possibilities:

  • No further compliance or enforcement action;
  • Possible follow-up compliance action; or
  • A recommendation for an enforcement action, such as an administrative monetary penalty (AMP).

In the case that there is an AMP imposed, we recommend taking action as soon as possible. In most cases, FINTRAC does not require real estate brokers and sales representatives to submit an action plan.

We’re Here To Help

If you need assistance preparing for a FINTRAC exam or have any compliance questions in general, please contact us.

 

 

[1] https://www.fintrac-canafe.gc.ca/publications/ar/2020/1-eng

[2] FINTRAC considers the date on which you are advised of an examination, which is typically done by phone, to be the start of the compliance examination process.

[3] https://www.fintrac-canafe.gc.ca/covid19/covid-2020-07-27-eng

[4] Effective June 1, 2021 a business relationship will be defined as either entering into an ongoing service agreement with a customer and/or your customer has performed one or more transactions that require identification.

The Iran Ministerial Directive’s Impact

Quick Overview

On July 25, 2020, a new Ministerial Directive (MD) was published in the Canada Gazette by the Minister of Finance on financial transactions associated with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  On July 27, 2020, FINTRAC issued guidance on how to incorporate the MD into your anti-money laundering (AML) program, along with some indicators for determining if a transaction is associated with Iran. This MD requires that every transaction originating from or bound for Iran be treated as high risk, regardless of the amount. This includes identifying every client, performing customer due diligence, and recording certain information. It is vital that your AML compliance program documentation contains internal processes related to MDs, even if you do not conduct transactions with Iran (or North Korea, based on the previous MD issued December 9, 2017).

What is a Ministerial Directive?

MDs are specific requirements imposed by the Minister of Finance that are meant to mitigate risks associated with activities that pose elevated risk and safeguard the integrity of Canada’s financial system. To date, these areas of elevated risk have been identified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as posing strategic deficiencies with regards to international standards for anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing.

What does this Ministerial Directive require?

The guidance from FINTRAC states that every bank, credit union, financial services cooperative, caisse populaire, authorized foreign bank and Money Services Business (MSB) must:

  • Treat every financial transaction originating from or bound for Iran, regardless of its amount, as a high-risk transaction;
  • Verify the identity of any client (person or entity) requesting or benefiting from such a transaction;
  • Exercise customer due diligence, including ascertaining the source of funds in any such transaction, the purpose of the transaction and, where appropriate, the beneficial ownership or control of any entity requesting or benefiting from the transaction;
  • Keep and retain a record of any such transaction;
  • Determine whether there are reasonable grounds to suspect the commission or attempted commission of a money laundering or terrorist financing offence and report all suspicious transactions to FINTRAC;
  • Reporting all other reportable transactions (if applicable).

To be clear, this MD does not apply to transactions where there is no suspicion or explicit connection with Iran and there is no evidence of the transaction originating from or being bound for Iran. A couple of examples were provided in the FINTRAC Guidance:

  • A client who has previously sent funds to Iran requests an outgoing EFT, where the transaction details do not suggest that this transaction is bound for Iran and you are unable to obtain further details about the transaction destination; or
  • The client’s identification information is the only suggestion of a connection to Iran (for example, a transaction where the conductor’s identification document is an Iranian passport).

What does it mean to you?

It is important to understand that even if your business does not facilitate transactions involving Iran, it is expected that you have a process in place for adhering to MDs, including how the Compliance Officer stays up to date. Within your AML compliance program documentation, you need to have a section that talks about MDs generally, plus specific procedures related to handling the current MDs (transactions involving Iran and North Korea). In the FINTRAC guidance related to this MD, it states that during an examination, FINTRAC will assess your compliance with MDs and failures to do so are considered very serious and may result in a penalty.

What now?

In order to ensure familiarity for anyone who interacts with customers and their transactions, the list of FINTRAC’s indicators should be communicated immediately.  Furthermore, the indicators should also be included in your procedure manuals and annual AML compliance training topics, allowing easy access to the information. Documenting the information and related processes for MDs is very important so you can demonstrate to FINTRAC your adherence to the requirements during an examination.

Need a hand?

We’ve made it easier for you to integrate this content into your program by putting the information into a Word document for you. If you aren’t sure what to do with this information and would like some assistance, please feel free to contact us.

Amended AML Regulations June 10, 2020 – Redlined Versions

The following red-lined versions have been created to reflect final amendments to Canadian anti-money laundering (AML) laws & regulations published in the Canada Gazette on June 10, 2020.  Amendments to the Cross-border Currency and Monetary Instruments Reporting Regulations will come into force on June 1, 2020. All other amendments will come into force on June 1, 2021. We have created industry specific blogs to make understanding the changes easier, which are located here.

Redlined versions of all the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations are listed below for download.

These documents are not official versions of the regulations. Official versions can be found on the Government of Canada’s Justice Laws Website.

Regulations Amending the Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act

Please click the link below for downloadable PDF file.

Regulations Amending the Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Proceeds of Crime July 2019 – Redlined_June 2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations

Please click the links below for downloadable pdf files.
PCMLTF_July_2019_Redlined_Full_July_2019 – Redlined_June 2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Suspicious Transaction Reporting Regulations

Please click the links below for downloadable pdf files.
PCMLTF_Suspicious_Transaction_Reporting_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_June 2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Registration Regulations

Please click the link below for a downloadable PDF file.
PCMLTF_Registration_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_June 2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations

Please click the link below for a downloadable pdf file.
PCMLTF_Administrative_Monetary_Penalties_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_June 2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Cross-Border Currency and Monetary Instruments Reporting Regulations

Please click the link below for a downloadable pdf file.
PCMLTF_Cross-Border_Currency_and_Monetary_Instruments_Reporting_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_June 2020

Need a Hand?

Whether you need to figure out if you’re a dealer in virtual currency, to put a compliance program in place, or to evaluate your existing compliance program, we can help. 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.

Are You a Foreign Money Services Business?

Background

On July 10, 2019 amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its enacted regulations were released in the Canada Gazette. The amendments require entities that conduct MSB activities from outside of Canada, directed towards Canadians, to be considered Foreign Money Services Businesses (FMSBs) and therefore comply with Canadian AML obligations.  Foreign MSBs must register with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) and become compliant by June 1, 2020. Check out our blog post to see what your full requirements are.

What Is A Money Services Business?

You are considered an MSB in Canada if your business offers any of the following services:

  • Foreign exchange dealing;
  • Remitting or transmitting funds;
  • Issuing or redeeming money orders, traveller’s cheques and other negotiable instruments; or
  • Dealing in virtual currencies.

What Is A Foreign Money Services Business?

You are considered an FMSB if all of the following criteria applies to your business:

  • The person or entity is engaged in the business of providing at least one money services business (MSB) service;
  • The person or entity does not have a place of business in Canada;
  • The person or entity directs its MSB services at persons or entities in Canada; and
  • They provide these services to clients in Canada. 

For further clarity, you must direct services at persons or entities located in Canada. FINTRAC clarifies that directing services means that the services offered takes into consideration a Canadian audience. For example, if marketing or advertising materials are used with the intent to promote services and to acquire business from persons or entities in Canada. Where a business advertises online, but may not specifically exclude Canadian IP addresses, this fact on its own would not constitute directing services at persons or entities in Canada.

A business would be seen as directing services at persons or entities in Canada if at least one of the following applies:

  • The business’s marketing or advertising is directed at persons or entities located in Canada; 
  • The business operates a “.ca” domain name; or
  • The business is listed in a Canadian business directory.

Note that additional criteria may be considered when determining whether you are directing services at persons or entities in Canada. Examples of the additional criteria that may be considered is outlined in FINTRAC’s FMSB Annex 1.

We’re Here To Help

If you are, or think you may be, a foreign MSB and have any questions related to your compliance obligations in Canada, please get in touch!

Amending the Amendments!

Background

Back on July 10, 2019, the highly anticipated final version of the amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its enacted regulations were published. However, on February 15, 2020, further proposed amendments to those amended regulations was published in the Canada Gazette. To make reading these changes a little easier, we 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 this round of proposed changes states the following: “The proposed amendments to the regulations would strengthen Canada’s AML/ATF Regime, align measures with international standards and level the playing field across reporting entities by applying stronger customer due diligence requirements and beneficial ownership requirements to designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs); modifying the definition of business relationship for the real estate sector; aligning customer due diligence measures for casinos with international standards; aligning virtual currency record-keeping obligations with international standards; clarifying the cross-border currency reporting program; clarifying a number of existing requirements; and making minor technical amendments”. The proposed amendments are expected to come into force on June 1, 2021.

As with all proposed changes, there is a comment period. This comment period is much shorter than the last one, at only 30 days. For anyone interested in commenting on the proposed changes, comments are to be addressed to Lynn Hemmings, Director General, Financial Crimes and Security Division, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance, 90 Elgin Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G5 or email: fin.fc-cf.fin@canada.ca.

While these are proposed changes, guidance from FINTRAC related to the amendments to regulation would hopefully be seen ahead of the coming into force dates of the final version.

We have summarized what this could mean for your business below.

Money Services Businesses

PEP

The most significant proposed change for Money Services Businesses (MSB)s is related to Politically exposed persons (PEP) determinations. Currently, a PEP determination must be made for international EFTs of CAD 100,000 or more. The proposed regulations will require MSBs to make a PEP determination when the MSB enters into a business relationship with a person.

If you currently conduct list screening, PEP screening could easily be added to that process.

Dealers in Virtual Currency

Travel Rule

For dealers in virtual currency, there is an additional proposed requirement on top of the requirements that were published in the last round of AML changes.  The proposed amendments add the requirement for records to be kept for virtual currency transfers of CAD 1,000 or more.

The record must contain the following:

  1. include with the transfer, the name, address and, if any, the account number or other reference number of both the person or entity that requested the transfer and the beneficiary; and
  2. take reasonable measures to ensure that any transfer received includes the information referred to in paragraph (a) above.

If the information required is not obtained, a determination of whether the transaction should be suspended or rejected will need to be made.

Given the nature of virtual currency transfers, it will be interesting to see how this requirement plays out, as currently, there are no technology solutions (that we are aware of) that would solve for this.

A reminder that dealers in virtual currency will be considered MSBs as of June 1, 2020. Check out our blog post for a full list of regulatory requirements related to dealers in virtual currency.

Real Estate

Business Relationship

One of the most significant proposed changes for real estate developers, brokers and sale representatives is related to the definition of a business relationship. Currently, a business relationship is defined as:

If a person or entity does not have an account with you, a business relationship is formed once you have conducted two transactions or activities for which you have to:

  • verify the identity of the individual; or
  • confirm the existence of the entity.

The proposed amendments will change that definition for real estate developers, brokers and sale representatives to only one transaction.

For business relationships, a reporting entity must:

  • keep a record of the purpose and intended nature of the business relationship;
  • conduct ongoing monitoring of your business relationship with your client to:
    • detect any transactions that need to be reported as suspicious;
    • keep client identification and beneficial ownership information, as well as the purpose and intended nature records, up-to-date;
    • reassess your clients risk level based on their transactions and activities; and
    • determine if the transactions and activities are consistent with what you know about your client;
  • keep a record of the measures you take to monitor your business relationships and the information you obtain as a result.

We will have to wait for guidance to see how ongoing monitoring obligations applies to the real estate sector if this change takes effect.

PEP

The proposed amendments will require real estate developers, brokers and sale representatives to make a Politically exposed persons (PEP) determination when they enter into a business relationship (as defined above) with a client. In addition, they will also be required to take reasonable measures to determine whether a client from whom they receive an amount of CAD 100,000 or more is a PEP.

Beneficial Ownership

The proposed amendments will require real estate developers, brokers and sale representatives to comply with existing beneficial ownership requirements that apply to other reporting entities.

This means when identifying an entity, a reporting entity needs to collect the following for all Directors and individuals who own or control, directly or indirectly, 25% or more of the organization:

  • Their full legal name;
  • Their full home address; and
  • Their role and/or ownership stake in the organization.

Given the obligation is to obtain, rather than verify, such information, we do not expect this requirement to be overly burdensome for the real estate sector.

Dealers in Precious Metals and Stones

PEP

Dealers in Precious Metals and Stones (DPMS)s will be required to make a PEP determination when they enter into a business relationship with a client. In addition, a DPMS will be required to take reasonable measures to determine whether a person from whom they receive an amount of CAD 100,000 or more is a PEP.

A reminder that a business relationship is defined as:

If a person or entity does not have an account with you, a business relationship is formed once you have conducted two transactions or activities for which you have to:

  • verify the identity of the individual; or
  • confirm the existence of the entity.

Given the definition of a business relationship, we do not expect this requirement to be overly burdensome. If you currently conduct list screening, PEP screening could easily be added to that process.

Beneficial Ownership

The proposed amendments will required DPMSs to comply with existing beneficial ownership requirements that apply to other reporting entities.

This means when identifying an entity, a reporting entity needs to collect the following for all Directors and individuals who own or control, directly or indirectly, 25% or more of the organization:

  • Their full legal name;
  • Their full home address; and
  • Their role and/or ownership stake in the organization.

Given the obligation is to obtain, rather than verify, such information, we do not expect this requirement to be overly burdensome for the DPMS sector.

We’re Here To Help

If you would like assistance in updating your compliance program and processes, or have any questions related to the changes, please get in touch!

Regulations Amending the Regulations February 15, 2020- Redlined Versions

The following red-lined versions have been created to reflect the amendments to Canadian anti-money laundering (AML) regulations published in the Canada Gazette on February 15, 2020. You can also read our article “Amending the Amendments!” for a summary of the proposed changes by industry.

Redlined versions of all the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations are listed below for download.

These documents are not official versions of the regulations. Official versions can be found on the Government of Canada’s Justice Laws Website.

Regulations Amending the Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act

Please click the link below for downloadable PDF file.
Amending_the_Regulations_Amending_Certain_Regulations_Made_Under_the_Proceeds_of_Crime_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations

Please click the links below for downloadable pdf files.
PCMLTF_July_2019_Redlined_Full_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Suspicious Transaction Reporting Regulations

Please click the links below for downloadable pdf files.
PCMLTF_Suspicious_Transaction_Reporting_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Registration Regulations

Please click the link below for a downloadable PDF file.
PCMLTF_Registration_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations

Please click the link below for a downloadable pdf file.
PCMLTF_Administrative_Monetary_Penalties_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Cross-Border Currency and Monetary Instruments Reporting Regulations

Please click the link below for a downloadable pdf file.
PCMLTF_Cross-Border_Currency_and_Monetary_Instruments_Reporting_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Need a Hand?

Whether you need to figure out if you’re a dealer in virtual currency, to put a compliance program in place, or to evaluate your existing compliance program, we can help. 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.

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.

Dealers In Virtual Currencies Can Pre-Register With FINTRAC

Last week, the Canadian Federal anti–money laundering agency, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), announced that money services businesses (MSBs) dealing in virtual currencies will be allowed to voluntarily register in advance of becoming reporting entities. All dealers in virtual currency (also referred to as cryptocurrency) are expected to register with FINTRAC by June 1, 2020.

The process of registration is relatively straightforward, beginning with a pre-registration form. In order to complete pre-registration, you simply need to provide full business and contact information. There is no cost to register an MSB with FINTRAC, although we’ve heard of several scams claiming that there is a fee. We also suggest that before you hire someone to assist, you try to complete the form on your own. 

To read more on the full registration details and all obligations that will apply to dealers in virtual currency beginning June 1, 2020, check out our blog 2019 AML Regulation Highlights for Dealers in Virtual Currency.

We’re Here To Help

Whether you need to figure out if you’re a dealer in virtual currency, put a compliance program in place, or evaluate your existing compliance program, we can help. 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.

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.

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