(This column was published in the North Shore News on Jan. 19, 2000)
Canada's criminal negligence
By Leo Knight
IN October, ministers responsible for justice in the G-8 countries met in Moscow for a little chin-wag on organized crime.
Our very own minister of inaction and fence-sitting, Anne McLellan, graced the conference with her presence.
The end-of-conference communique begins promisingly enough with this introduction: "The G-8 are committed to the fight against the dark side of globalization -- transnational organized crime which threatens to damage our societies and our economies."
Sounds noble enough.
Now this isn't the first time this august group has got together on the subject. On the contrary, they have been meeting at least once a year for the past five years that I know of.
Leafing through the 20 or so pages of mind-numbing bureaucratese one notes some astonishing moments of clarity. For example, paragraph 9 states: "Organized crime is taking advantage of the Internet and other new technologies to conduct transnational crime, including money laundering and serious fraud. We must deny criminals the ability to use these new technologies against our citizens."
The document also talks about an agreement to "bring our anti-money laundering regimes into closer alignment and to consider (my emphasis) putting certain responsibilities, as appropriate, on those professionals such as lawyers, accountants, company formation agents, auditors and other financial intermediaries who can either block or facilitate the entry of organized crime money into the financial system."
What's to consider? Organized crime cannot flourish without the ability to turn dirty money into clean money. Period.
The complicity of the professionals noted is a necessary ingredient for the process to succeed. Government's shocking inaction on this end of the problem is scandalous and they wish to consider what they should do.
Suspecting this inanity might permeate the communique, I soldiered on anyway. Then in paragraph 15 I discovered this promising bit of information: "... to ensure that no criminal receives safe haven anywhere in the world."
I became further heartened reading the next sections on "Locating and Identifying High-tech Criminals" and establishing an "International Network of 24-hour Contacts" to respond to "fast-breaking" investigations.
I actually began to believe the collection of justice ministers had a grip on the totality of the problem when in paragraph 24 I read the following: "The financial crime and money laundering activities of transnational organized crime are a threat to the national security of all nations."
The section continued, " ... to block the laundering of illegally acquired proceeds are essential elements of the fight against serious transnational organized crime and will help ensure an environment which promotes official integrity and is intolerant of corruption."
"... we must take all the steps necessary to ensure that criminals and their laundered money can find no safe haven," the communique stated in paragraph 25.
The cynic in me couldn't help but note that the conference was held in the heart of Russia which has possibly the most corrupt government in the history of mankind and spawned one of the most violent and virulent organized crime groups to plague the world. But I digress.
The conference also issued a statement against terrorism which also promised "No safe haven shall be given to terrorists anywhere."
I wonder if the justice minister bothered to show the document to Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan, whose department seemed somewhat reluctant to rid us of Ahmed Ressam for the five or so years he plotted what havoc to wreak in the United States.
In its totality, the communique demonstrates the governments of the G-8 countries have an understanding of the scope and nature of the beast that is organized crime.
I have to question our government's commitment to the ideals and decisions made at the conference.
The Ressam debacle and the illegal migrant issue, not to mention the government's general lethargy on organized crime, has certainly raised the question of whether we, as a country, have deceived our G-8 partners when our representatives signed the communique.
* * *
The brutal murder of the two senior citizens in Burnaby over the weekend has shocked the community and sickened the cops who attended the gruesome scene.
Burnaby Mounties worked their tails off over the weekend, virtually non-stop, to track the killers down. But the real break in the case came from a North Vancouver female member. (I use the descriptor "female" for those knuckle-draggers who have been criticizing the gender in the wake of the so-called "Broad Squad" screw up in the drug search in Vancouver dominating the media last week.)
Const. Allison Coyle and Sgt. Colin Worth were working together in the Seymour area when a van got their attention. They discreetly followed the van to the gravel pit behind the cemetery off Lillooet Road. A check of the licence plate confirmed it was the van Burnaby RCMP had sent out a lookout for.
While the people in the van were ultimately determined not to have committed the murders, the discovery of the victims' van and the arrest of the two men inside was the link police needed to make an arrest in the case.
Coyle and Worth, along with the assistance of Constable James Dodds, did a great job. Unfortunately, these are the type of good news stories that rarely make the headlines.