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Manitoba RCMP seize millions in drugs, cash in cryptocurrency money-laundering arrests

Click to play video: 'Manitoba RCMP seize millions in drugs, cash in cryptocurrency money-laundering arrests'
Manitoba RCMP seize millions in drugs, cash in cryptocurrency money-laundering arrests
I – Dec 5, 2023

Six Manitobans are facing charges after an RCMP investigation into a cryptocurrency-based money-laundering operation.

Police said Tuesday that Project Decrypt, an investigation based in the RM of Springfield, led them to an area man with alleged ties to high-level drug trafficking rings.

RCMP officers began investigating the trafficking of large amounts of illicit cannabis in April 2021, when they say they learned a Springfield man, 39, had fraudulently obtained a Health Canada micro-grow licence, and was laundering his profits by converting cash into cryptocurrency.

The same man is also accused of helping others launder cash into cryptocurrency, and police said they have linked him to Project Divergent, a drug trafficking investigation in 2022 that led to 22 arrests.

Summer 2023 raids on 10 properties connected to the man across four Manitoba communities, led to the seizure of more than $6 million in drugs, equipment, and proceeds of crime.

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Police said they also seized more than $3 million in property, $2 million in illicit cannabis, seven firearms, $700,000 in drug and cryptocurrency equipment, $15,000 in cash, and more than $203,000 over the course of the searches.

Firearms seized by Manitoba RCMP. Randall Paull / Global News

“The suspect in this investigation was obtaining Health Canada medical cannabis grow licences through fraudulent means and growing vast amounts of illicit cannabis to sell through a criminal network,” said Insp. Joe Telus in a statement Tuesday.

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“He was converting that ill-gotten cash into cryptocurrency to fund his lavish lifestyle and other criminal enterprises.

“We see, through Project Divergent and Project Decrypt, how these networks feed off each other and are interconnected. We are not targeting legal users of cannabis. These large-scale operations are producing illicit product and feeding criminal networks, and the RCMP will continue to work tirelessly to disrupt those networks.”

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The suspect faces five charges under the Cannabis Act, as well as a charge of fraud over $5,000, identity fraud, possession of property obtained by crime, laundering the proceeds of crime, and false pretences.

A 33-year-old man who was arrested with him allegedly ran the medical grow operation and also faces Cannabis Act charges.

In addition, a 33-year-old courier and a 42-year-old grower are facing charges, as well as another 33-year-old man who obtained the.micro-grow licence. A 71-year-old faces firearms charges, and the owner of the property where the illicit grow op was housed has since died, so his charges have been stayed.

All of the suspects have been released from custody, pending court dates.

Police continue to investigate.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba RCMP seize over $6 million in cannabis, cryptocurrency scheme'
Manitoba RCMP seize over $6 million in cannabis, cryptocurrency scheme

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