Dirty dollars are sitting in Canadian banks

What do you potentially have in common with the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi? 

You might be banking with the same financial institution. 

Driving the news: Gadhafi—who was ousted from power and killed in 2011—deposited billions of dollars in Canadian bank accounts that are still floating around the financial system, former Libyan ambassador to Canada Fathi Baja told The Globe and Mail

  • Baja didn’t disclose how much cash is tucked away… but considering Gadhafi died (by some accounts) the world’s richest man and hid more than US$40 billion in illegal funds outside of Libya, it’s probably more than what’s in your standard TFSA.

  • The former ambassador also claims he knows where the assets are, but will only disclose the details once Libya has a democratically elected government—though it’s also safe to assume they’re not sitting around in a no-fee chequing account.

How he did it: Using frontmen to open bank accounts and shell corporations in Canada. Gadhafi reportedly stowed parts of his personal wealth alongside funds acquired from enriching himself through the state and reappropriating wealth generated from Libya’s oil biz.

Why it matters: Canada has a reputation for having some of the West’s weakest anti-money laundering laws. In 2020, CSIS found that between $45 billion to $113 billion are laundered in the country annually. It’s so easy to do that criminals have a name for it: Snow washing.

What’s next: Per this year’s budget, the feds will launch a parliamentary review of Canada’s anti-money laundering laws. They’re also rolling out a new corporate ownership registry to make it easier to identify the owners of companies that are laundering money.—QH