Anti-money-laundering course mandatory for real estate agents and property managers

Real estate professionals will learn how to recognize red flags and be instructed on their obligations if they’re involved in a suspicious transaction. It’s estimated $5 billion was laundered through B.C.’s property market in 2018 alone, driving up prices by an estimated five percent that year.

The regulatory agency for B.C.’s real estate professionals is launching a mandatory anti-money-laundering course to show real estate agents and strata and property managers how to recognize red flags and what steps they’re obligated to take to report suspected cases.

The course will provide “the information you need to understand why real estate is attractive to money launderers,” said the course outline on the website of the Real Estate Council of B.C., the self-regulatory body of the province’s 26,000 licensed real estate pros.

Members will learn “how to recognize the risk signs and red flags associated with money laundering (and) review your obligations and the steps to take to report suspicious transactions,” it said.

The self-paced online course will “empower them (real estate pros) to actively contribute to preventing criminal activity in B.C. real estate markets” and support them to “comply with their federal reporting obligations,” spokesman Warren Mirko said in an emailed statement.

“Real estate professionals work closely with their clients, so they are well-positioned to identify suspicious transactions,” he said.

The announcement of the course requirement comes two months after the provincial government unveiled plans to create a new regulator for B.C.’s real estate sector by spring 2021. A single regulator for the sector was a key recommendation of recent reports aimed at cracking down on money laundering.

The three reports into money laundering since 2018 have revealed billions in proceeds-of-crime, and other questionable sources of income have been laundered for years through the real estate industry, as well as through other luxury purchases and through casinos.

The latest report, by Maureen Maloney in May, estimated up to $5 billion was funneled through the B.C. property market in 2018 alone, likely increasing housing prices that year by five percent.

Retired B.C. Supreme Court associate chief Justice Austin Cullen is in the middle of a year-long public inquiry to investigate the causes, scope, and impact of money laundering in the province.

Registration will open when the course is launched next week and it will be required for license renewal beginning April 1.

“It will become part of the mandatory education that real estate professionals must take in order to maintain their license to practice in B.C.,” said Mirko.

The B.C. Real Estate Association announced this week a new requirement of 18 hours of professional training every two years for its realtors (who make up 90 percent of all real estate agents), but there was no reference to money laundering.

Bitcoin is Laundered, Cash Isn’t — Claims Treasury Secretary Mnuchin

By: Jon Buck

United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin recently raised some eyebrows this week during a CNBC interview, commenting that cash isn’t laundered or used for nefarious activities, but Bitcoin definitely is.

Cash is Safe?

Interestingly, the Secretary was asked if cash was just as easy to launder and use for nefarious purposes as Bitcoin. He responded by saying that nefarious activities have not been completed with cash.

Joe Squawk looked visibly shocked by the statement and then chuckled. Before Bitcoin’s birth a decade ago, cash was the only option for nefarious activities, which certainly took place. But Mnuchin persisted in his insistence that cash was safe.

Bitcoin Boogey Man

A host of ironies are related to the issues at hand. First, Mnuchin’s own tenure as Secretary has seen approximately $1.5 trillion go missing in $100 bills. The funds have yet to be recovered.

Further, the simple fact that Bitcoin is only ten years old reveals that nefarious activities are certainly possible with cash. For generations, cash has been king among criminals, and funds being used have been laundered.

To argue that new Anti Money Laundering (AML) policies have stopped these activities is laughable. No amount of government control can guarantee that funds are never laundered or used for criminal activity.

Principles of control

Mnuchin’s comments reveal a general distrust of Bitcoin among legislators. What’s more, it appears that Mnuchin is unfamiliar with Bitcoin’s privacy capabilities. The coin offers little or no anonymity, with wallets being mostly trackable and discoverable on the blockchain.

Instead, Mnuchin appears to be gunning for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. A general distrust of the new technology and a desire to control funds is likely at the root of his comments. President Trump’s sentiments reflect a similar desire to control funds without interference.

Bitcoin, like cash, can be used negatively. However, to argue that cash is safe and Bitcoin is not is a fundamental misunderstanding of both methodologies by the man who is running the Treasury of the United States.



Blow To Bitcoin As Former ECB Boss Makes Dire Warning Over Crypto’s Future

By: Billy Bambrough

Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies have attracted strong criticism from the world’s central bankers this year–sparked, perhaps, by Facebook’s plans for its own bitcoin rival.

The bitcoin price soared in the first six months of this year only to stall amid concerns lawmakers and regulators could be poised to crack down on the nascent bitcoin and crypto industry.

Now, former European Central Bank (ECB) president Jean-Claude Trichet has slammed bitcoin and Facebook’s libra project, warning bitcoin is “not real” and not the future of money.

“I am strongly against bitcoin, and I think we are a little complacent,” said Trichet, speaking during a panel discussion at Beijing-based media group Caixin’s annual conference last weekend. His comments were first reported by the South China Morning Post newspaper.

“[Bitcoin] itself is not real, with the characteristics that a currency must-have.”

Trichet also slammed bitcoin and cryptocurrency speculation, which he branded “not healthy.”

“Even if [the cryptocurrency] is supposed to be based on underlying assets, I am observing a lot of speculation. It is not healthy,” Trichet said, adding buying a cryptocurrency is “in many respects pure speculation.”

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency adoption has failed to live up to sky-high expectations since bitcoin exploded into the public consciousness in 2017.

Bitcoin soared in 2017 from under $1,000 per bitcoin to almost $20,000, sparking a digital gold rush and making many early adopters overnight millionaires.

Trichet’s remarks come amid excitement in the bitcoin and cryptocurrency industry that China could be about to relax its strict crypto restrictions following a ban on bitcoin exchanges in 2017.

Last month, some bitcoin and cryptocurrency market analysts pointed to comments made by China’s president President Xi Jinping that the country should “seize the opportunity” of bitcoin’s blockchain technology as the reason behind bitcoin’s sudden rally.

“We are already in a domain which has much less physical currency,” he said. “Whether we are in a domain where that will be replaced with crypto? I have doubts there.”

Trichet’s comments echo remarks made by new ECB president Christine Lagarde earlier this year when she warned cryptocurrencies are “shaking the system”—something that could signal a change in the ECB’s approach to bitcoin and crypto and potentially spur adoption.

Elsewhere, the last ECB president, Mario Draghi, has said that bitcoin and crypto “are not designed in ways that make them suitable substitutes for money.”


Lawyer Made Millions Laundering Money in Crypto Scam, U.S. Says

By Bob Van Voris

Mark Scott got a nice bump when he left his partnership at a big law firm and took up money laundering for a multibillion-dollar international pyramid scheme based on the fake cryptocurrency OneCoin, federal prosecutors say.

Scott, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of using a network of shell companies, offshore bank accounts and phony investment funds to hide the origin of $400 million in illegal proceeds. He made millions, which he used to buy a 57-foot yacht, multimillion-dollar homes in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and luxury cars, including three Porsches, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julieta Lozano told jurors on Tuesday in her opening statement in Scott’s criminal trial in Manhattan.

“The scheme raked in billions of dollars in dirty money,” Lozano said. “It was the defendant’s job to clean that money.”

OneCoin generated 3.4 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in revenue from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2016, according to the government, but had no real value and couldn’t be used to buy anything.

The company that allegedly ran the scheme, OneCoin Ltd., claimed to have more than three million members worldwide. It operated as a multilevel marketing network that paid commissions to members for recruiting others to buy OneCoin packages, prosecutors say.

Scott, 51, is a former partner with Locke Lord LLP, a U.S.-based law firm with 21 offices including Houston, Dallas, and Chicago. He was arrested in September 2018 in Barnstable, Massachusetts. He’s charged with one count each of money-laundering conspiracy and bank-fraud conspiracy and could spend years in prison if convicted.

Also charged in the case are Ruja Ignatova, one of two people who founded OneCoin in 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria, and her younger brother Konstantin Ignatov. Ignatova, known at OneCoin’s peak as the “cryptoqueen,” disappeared in 2017 as OneCoin came under suspicion. Ignatov was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in March and is in custody. He’s testifying as a witness for the government.

On Tuesday, Scott’s lawyer told jurors his client didn’t realize OneCoin was based on a worthless electronic currency. Scott believed he was running his own legitimate investment fund with money from his client, Ignatova, who is to blame for the fraud, he said.

“He did not know that OneCoin was a scam,” the lawyer, Arlo Devlin-Brown, told jurors. “Mark is one of the people that she lied to.”

The case is U.S. v. Scott, 17-cr-630, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

FBI raids Wadsworth home in connection with money laundering, selling guns illegally to felons

By Drew Scofield

WADSWORTH, Ohio – The FBI descended on a Wadsworth residence early Wednesday morning that authorities say is connected to an investigation for laundering money and selling guns to felons, according to an FBI spokesperson.

The raid occurred around 4 a.m. in the 2500 block of Blake Road on the city’s West Side, authorities said.

Authorities arrested Francisco Flores, 39, during the raid.

Federal authorities also took 21 “illegals” into custody, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Flores has been indicted on one count of the transfer of firearms for use in drug trafficking, three counts of selling firearms to felons, four counts of money laundering and one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.

Flores is accused of selling various rifles and handguns to individuals who would use them in connection with illegal activities, authorities said.

Between August 2017 and January 2018, authorities say Flores made several financial transactions to “disguise” money he believed were made from drug trafficking. Attorneys said Flores also used his flooring business — Flores Flooring — to “engage in the unlicensed transmitting of money.”

“This is a man who put heavy firepower on the streets for drug dealers, and also helped them launder their drug money,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “Ohio is a safer place with him behind bars.”

“Francisco Flores may be known to some in the community as a business owner but to law enforcement, he is known as someone engaged in dangerous unlawful activities,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony. “These actions will not be tolerated in our community. The FBI’s Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force will continue to disrupt individuals that are a threat to our everyday lives.”

Baton Rouge man indicted for international money laundering in connection with drug business

By Rachel Thomas

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – A Baton Rouge man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute drugs, international money laundering, and other charges related to these activities.

Donovan Barker, 59, made his initial court appearance on October 25 and pleaded not guilty.

According to the indictment, Barker owned and operated several businesses (Quantum Information Technologies, Caring Partners 1, llc, Don Western Sky, llc, Life Positive Services, llc, and Healthy Life 1, llc.), which sold and distributed green tea extracts and herbal supplements, but was actually working with others to import schedule IV drugs into the U.S. in order to repackage and distribute those drugs to people who had purchased them online. Barker was also reportedly accepting payments from these buyers and transmitting money to others operating outside the country.

The Department of Justice says from October of 2012 to February of 2016, Barker received more than $4.6 million in payments from people all over the country who had bought drugs and other substances online. Barker reportedly wired a majority of the money to various foreign bank accounts in the Philippines, India, China, and Canada. Barker is alleged to have been operating a money transmitting business without the proper license and without complying with applicable federal registration requirements.

The indictment also alleges that on May 24, 2016, Barker knowingly and intentionally possessed tramadol, a controlled dangerous substance.

“This indictment demonstrates the lengths to which international drug traffickers will go to deliver drugs and the efforts my office will make to stop them. We are committed to eliminating the international financial network used by drug dealers to bring drugs to our country and launder their illegal proceeds. I want to thank our prosecutors and our federal, state, and local partners for their extraordinary efforts in this case,” said U.S. Attorney Brandon Fremin.

Barker is indicted on charges of aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute tramadol and carisoprodol, international money laundering, unlawful money transmitting, and possession of tramadol.