October 24, 2014 / 9:04 PM / in 3 years

Exclusive: Canada's financial intelligence agency gets 'useful' data after attacks

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s financial intelligence agency asked institutions to quickly report suspicious transactions in the wake of two deadly attacks this week and has received data “useful to our intelligence efforts,” a spokesman said on Friday.

Police officers take cover near Parliament Hilll following a shooting incident in Ottawa October 22, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC) was set up in 2000 to combat money-laundering and ensures the compliance of 31,000 financial entities doing business in Canada.

It sent a message to all 31,000 on Wednesday - the day of the second fatal attack - stressing the need for quick reports.

Asked whether FINTRAC had noticed any suspicious transactions linked to the attacks this week, spokesman Darren Gibb said: “What we have received from businesses following our message has been useful to our intelligence efforts.”

He declined to give more details.

Reuters reviewed a copy of the message that was sent by FINTRAC to the institutions.

“We would like to remind you of the importance of reporting suspicious transactions to FINTRAC in a timely fashion, particularly those transactions potentially related to terrorist financing,” it read.

“These reports may be invaluable in assisting police and national security agencies in preventing a terrorist attack in Canada and abroad,” it added.

Gibb said suspicious transactions were a priority and noted that agency officials had recently held briefing sessions for institutions in financial centers such as Toronto and Montreal.

The Canadian government is promising to introduce tough anti-terrorism legislation after the deadly attacks by suspected Islamic extremists in Quebec and Ottawa.

In the fiscal year ended March 2013, the agency passed on 1,143 cases to law enforcement bodies out of 81,735 potentially suspicious transactions reported by institutions, FINTRAC’s Director Gerald Cossette said on Monday.

“Of these disclosures, 234 were specifically related to terrorist financing and threats to the security of Canada ... this is up 50 percent from (the previous) year and 450 percent from 2008,” he told a Senate committee.

This week’s attacks took place after Canada announced it would take part in air strikes against Islamic State militants who have taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Cossette told the Senate Committee that FINTRAC was looking at money transfers from Canada to conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq as well as Iran.

A Finance Department official told Reuters on Friday that the government is still working on new regulations required to enforce recent changes to an expanded money laundering and terror financing law.

As part of an omnibus budget bill introduced on Thursday, the government proposed changes to this terror financing law to expand the definition of “foreign entities” to include online financial service providers.

With additional reporting by Mike De Souza in Ottawa; Editing by Martin Howell

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