RCMP probes elaborate scam targeting Canada’s largest Muslim organization

Weird. Await results of investigation with interest:

Canada’s largest Muslim community organization has been rocked by meticulous forgeries of RCMP and Canada Revenue Agency records, which weave an elaborate fiction about federal investigators using paid informants to build a terrorist-funding case against the charity.

For more than a year, the Muslim Association of Canada has been receiving documents from an anonymous sender that suggest authorities are attempting to entrap the organization, sowing turmoil within the grassroots group. It operates 22 mosques and community centres and 30 schools in 13 cities.

A Globe and Mail investigation has found that the records mailed to MAC are fake. The trove of documents, amounting to hundreds of pages, includes printouts designed to look like internal government e-mails between criminal investigators, fake RCMP search warrants andphony records of money transfers through the SWIFT interbank system to offshore accounts supposedly associated with informants within the charity.

The Canada Revenue Agency referred the matter to the RCMP after The Globe shared some of the documents with the tax collection agency. The RCMP said in a statement that they are reviewing the documents.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, MAC is not convinced the documents are fake. The organization is calling on the federal government to launch an independent investigation aimed at determining whether someone in a government department or agency is engaging in “Islamophobic tactics against the Muslim community,” Sharaf Sharafeldin, MAC’s president responsible for strategy, said in a statement.

“The documents are quite intricate, detailed and troubling,” Mr. Sharafeldin added. “The documents or their contents must have come from a source within the federal government or its agencies as no one outside of the federal government or its agencies would have had access to such information.”

In April, 2021, the 25-year-old charity began receiving the documents in packages with no return addresses. MAC has so far received 11 deliveries of purported government files. They detail a non-existent seven-year effort by tax collectors and the RCMP to find evidence that MAC is funnelling donations to extremist groups. The last package arrived in late November.

Relations between the Muslim organization and the CRA have been fraught for years. Since 2015, the tax agency has been conducting a very real audit of MAC’s activities as a registered charity, a possible prelude to revoking its charitable status. That investigation is unrelated to any accusations of terrorist funding.

MAC has called this continuing CRA audit an “existential threat,” because losing charitable status would make it harder for the organization to raise money to run mosques and schools, as its donors would not be eligible for tax breaks. It mounted a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge against the CRA in April to stop the audit, arguing the agency is tainted by Islamophobia and systemic bias toward Muslim Canadians.

Canada’s Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson, François Boileau, said in an interview that he was “completely flabbergasted” to learn that someone is impersonating CRA investigators.

“Wow. Someone, somewhere is going to a lot of trouble inventing this scheme. So there is something very troubling,” he added.

The fake records sent to MAC, which were obtained by The Globe, make it seem as if the charity is riddled with informants supplying the RCMP and the CRA with details of its operations. A purported Mountie “Informant Manifest” lists six informants who are supposedly working with the National Security Joint Operations Centre, as well as 18 “secondary asset” informants.

The informant list includes what it describes as six current donors to the association, seven current members, a current board member of MAC, as well as a custodian, a banker and a food-service provider for the charity.

Perhaps the most explosive documents sent to MAC are purported records of cash payments and SWIFT wire transfers to RCMP and CRA informants who are supposedly supplying investigators with information on the organization.

The purported transfers show 13 payments into offshore bank accounts, supposedly for the benefit of three informants. All but one list the Bank of Canada as the sender. The documents show the equivalent of more than $320,000 being deposited into accounts in the British dependency of Guernsey.

But the Bank of Canada, in a statement to The Globe, said the SWIFT transfer documents bearing its name are forgeries.

“We can confirm that the documents purporting to be SWIFT transfer records are not genuine,” the bank said.

The central bank declined to say specifically what was inauthentic about the SWIFT documents, to avoid giving people tips on how to create fake wire transfers.

The fake records sent to MAC portray the Canada Revenue Agency as being under pressure from its leadership to nail the Muslim charity for wrongdoing. The documents make investigators appear willing to bend or break the rules in order to do so.

An e-mail dated March, 2022 and purportedly sent by Wayne Welch, an investigator with the CRA’s criminal investigation division in Mississauga, mentions the “urgency that the chief has placed on breaking ground on having a smoking gun on MAC.” It continues by saying: “We need to be more creative if not downright dirty in roping these bad actors in.”

One e-mail purports to show CRA leadership trying to use sex as bait. “It is agreed that scandal is the best leverage here. Please put our girl in play. He’s married. Let’s see if he bites,” the e-mail says. It’s not clear who the target at MAC is.

Another e-mail, purportedly sent in April by Shalini Shan-Hernandez, with the CRA’s criminal investigations division, paints a picture of a failing investigation. “There just isn’t the kind of material we need for a solid case,” says the message, addressed to Eric Ferron, the director general of the CRA’s criminal investigation directorate. It continues by saying: “Also, the assets have started being a little sketchy, since the larger payments have gone out.”

The records make it seem as if U.S. law enforcement is pushing the CRA for results and directing it to find an informant inside MAC’s leadership. “We on this side of the fence are concerned about the pace of your sourcing,” a June e-mail purportedly from a Federal Bureau of Investigation official named Mustafa S. appears to tell the CRA’s Mr. Ferron. “It is imperative that we are in a position by year’s end to move into the next phase of operations. To this end we need to establish a foothold in the executive of MAC.” The FBI agent is a real agent, but his e-mail address on the documents is incorrect.

Whoever sent the documents included what appear to be two RCMP search warrants – one from 2014 and another from January of this year – that purportedly show the Mounties had obtained court approval to wiretap and search MAC’s offices. While the warrants look authentic, they are missing key information, such as courthouse addresses and the locations of MAC offices. An extensive search of court records by The Globe did not turn up these warrants.

But The Globe did obtain a legitimate warrant filed in April, 2014. It focuses on another Muslim charity, and briefly mentions MAC. An affidavit that was part of an RCMP application for the warrant says that MAC provided more than $296,500 to the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy (IRFAN) between 2001 and 2010.

In 2011, IRFAN was designated a terrorist entity by the Canadian government for providing $14.6-million in resources to organizations with links to Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip and is designated a terrorist organization by Ottawa. The CRA revoked IRFAN’s status as a Canadian charity in 2011.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki wrote to MAC in October, 2020, to assure the group it “was perfectly legal” to have made donations to IRFAN when “they were a legitimate registered charity.” Commissioner Lucki said “no charges were laid against your organization as a result of this investigation,” which was dubbed Project Sapphire.

The documents sent to MAC also describe a conflict between the RCMP and Ottawa’s Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FinTRAC), which monitors money flows for terrorism financing.

The e-mails make it appear as if FinTRAC officials were accusing RCMP investigators of bias, and of rejecting evidence FinTRAC had gathered on MAC as part of Project Sapphire.

“Our findings, thus far, indicate no transactions that meet the criteria for intentional criminality,” says a May, 2014, e-mail purportedly from Michael Boole, a manager at FinTRAC.

In a second e-mail also dated May, 2014, Mr. Boole purportedly questions whether there is a “political aspect” to the RCMP’s conduct. In a third e-mail supposedly sent that month, he admonishes the force. “It is also not part of our mandate, either in this project or in general, to target certain groups or manipulate data to fit certain agendas,” he appears to tell the RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team.

A June, 2014, e-mail purportedly shows Mr. Boole telling the RCMP to back off.

“I will put this as diplomatically as possible. This is unacceptable. We will not acquiesce to your demand for conformity to the pre-determined scenario you have formulated,” the e-mail says.

But Mr. Boole, who is now manager of the anti-money-laundering unit in FinTRAC’s intelligence sector, has sworn these e-mails are fake.

In an Oct. 3, 2022, affidavit filed in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, Mr. Boole said he had “not heard of the Muslim Association of Canada” until the summer of 2022, when he was contacted by federal lawyers who were analyzing an earlier batch of suspect documents sent to the charity.

He said that, during the period the e-mails cover, he did no work “on any matter related to suspected terrorist financing.”

The CRA’s Ms. Hernandez and Mr. Ferron have also sworn affidavits saying they did not author the documents sent to MAC.

Source: RCMP probes elaborate scam targeting Canada’s largest Muslim organization

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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