By Mike De Souza
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s financial intelligence agency has issued detailed guidelines to financial institutions to help them identify signs of terrorism funding in the wake of two deadly terror attacks last October against the country’s soldiers.
The list, released by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC), includes keeping an eye out for clients who suddenly pay down debt, show transactions or travel plans to conflict zones or appear to be selling property and their possessions.
FINTRAC wants institutions to increase customer scrutiny and flag suspicious cases to the agency, its spokesman said on Wednesday. Last November, the agency reported a jump in suspicious transactions following the attacks in Ottawa and near Montreal.
“FINTRAC is not issuing these indicators in order to ask reporting entities to do additional work, but to be more vigilant in the review of transactions involving their clients,” spokesman Darren Gibb said of the new guidelines, sent out to financial institutions in May.
The agency was launched in 2000 to track money movements it feels may be related to money laundering, or national security issues such as terrorism. It passes any intelligence it gathers on to other government bodies for further investigation.
FINTRAC Director Gerald Cossette asked institutions to be diligent in the guidelines, noting that transactions associated with terrorism often fall below the C$10,000 ($8,153) mandatory threshold for reporting to FINTRAC.
The new instructions also call for the institutions – which include banks, life insurance companies, real estate agencies and developers, accounting firms and casinos – to be on the lookout for transactions involving people associated with terrorism in media reports, social media websites and those identified by law enforcement agencies.
FINTRAC urged institutions to review cases where multiple warnings are flagged as individual warning signs might not identify suspicious activity on their own.
Cossette wrote that previous reporting by the institutions following the October attacks was “extremely useful” for intelligence agencies.
“Indeed, your employees are often the first ones to have a suspicion regarding a transaction, which means that your efforts in submitting to us timely, relevant and high-quality suspicious transaction reports are fundamental to Canada’s ability to combat money laundering and terrorism financing,” Cossette wrote in a May 7 email to the institutions.
FINTRAC said the number of terrorism financing related cases it has studied and referred to other law enforcement partners more than doubled to 337 cases in 2014-2015, up from 159 in 2011-2012.
(Reporting by Mike De Souza; Editing by Alan Crosby)