By Jorge Branca
I’m writing this letter hoping that some people from FINTRAC can help me (and maybe other Realtors) understand why we are still filling forms and collecting private information from our clients. It would be fantastic if they could give us their answers to the following:
Is it effective and really necessary?
Although FINTRAC was created in October 2000, in my basic and homemade analysis I’m considering only the last decade (from January 2008 to December 2017).
During that period (only in Toronto and the GTA) 910,126 real estate transactions were reported. If you consider that every one of them involves two parties and both Realtors must fill about five pages of FINTRAC Forms each, that adds up for more than nine million pages. And that is only when buyer and seller are individuals. If there are two couples involved, we have more than 18 million pages.
How much office space do you need to store 18 million pages? How many trees are necessary to create those forms and how much does it cost? And that is only in Toronto and the GTA. How many more millions of pages (and money) are necessary for the rest of the transactions in Canada?
Looking on the internet (my only source of this basic search) I found that FINTRAC has 342 employees with an annual budget of about $60 million. (My apologies if this is not up to date).
What I could not find anywhere (even on its website) is how effective they are. How many real cases of money laundering have they discovered? How many of them could be legally proved and how much money was collected in fines (or retrieved from the “bad guys”) in the last decade?
I asked above about “collected money” because, based on a court ruling from May 2016, FINTRAC is not able to collect the fines they applied.
Maybe this is a simplistic view and I don’t want to offend anybody by asking more “uncomfortable” questions but, I’m just wondering…. If one law created FINTRAC and then a court ruling does not allow them to collect the money, what’s the point of having FINTRAC?
Why do forests have to be destroyed and thousands of rooms used as storage of millions of useless pages? How many improvements, for example, we could do to our public hospitals with a budget of $60 million per year (more than $1 billion since it was created)?
In February 2015, a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada established that lawyers are not required to report the transactions of their clients under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. Which means that huge cash real estate transactions are not reported (including FSBOs).
So, I’d like to ask FINTRAC: Why are we still forced to waste our time collecting private information from our normal working clients? Why don’t you use your resources investigating only bank transactions where the real money is, instead of chasing those who are working honestly? Why aren’t you putting more effort looking for laundered money rather that punishing those whose only sin was probably “not reporting”?
Having real and honest answers (not just the “politician version”) probably would help us to understand.
Something is telling me that I’m not the only one who would love to know.