A three-year investigation has put a stop to a nationwide money laundering scheme, according to the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).
On Wednesday, police announced they have charged seven people with 71 charges as a result of Project Collector, which was described in a news release as an “unprecedented investigation.”
Project Collector started back in July 2018 after $1 million in cash destined for Vancouver was intercepted in Calgary.
More than $16 million was found in various bank accounts, real estate holdings, and vehicles which have all been confiscated by police. ALERT said the money laundering was primarily connected back to drug trafficking proceeds.
In a news release, investigators said the proceeds of crime from some of Canada’s largest criminal organizations were allegedly being transported between Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.
“In a one-year period alone, investigators identified the transfer of $24 million in cash, while the group’s money laundering activities date back to at least 2013,” ALERT said.
The investigation led by ALERT along with the RCMP federal serious and organized crime unit and FINTRAC found the group operated pseudo-bank branches at either side of the country. While holding large cash reserves, they allowed organized crime groups utilizing its service to transfer funds while avoiding the detection of financial banking institutions and authorities, police said.
Arrests took place in both Calgary and Vancouver in September of this year.
Charges include participation in a criminal organization, laundering proceeds of crime and trafficking property obtained by crime. Charges were also laid under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.
Other specialized agencies Project Collector relied heavily on included the Calgary Police Service, Canada Revenue Agency, Forensic Accounting Management Group (FAMG), Vancouver Police, Toronto Police, Edmonton Police, Halton Police, Seized Property Management Directorate, and RCMP units in Ontario and British Columbia.