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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Leaked US Cables Reveal Organized Crime Running Amok In Montreal


Massive telemarketing fraud. Brazen video piracy using hidden camcorders in theatres. Trafficking of underage girls for exploitation in strip clubs and prostitution rings.
Montreal has literally become a "Bangkok of the West," a North American hot spot for questionable sex trade activities and other criminality, American diplomats suggest in newly leaked cables.
Penned by diplomats stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Montreal between 2003 and 2007, the cables were among the latest batch of sensitive documents made public by Wikileaks after unknown people leaked them to the group.
They were among hundreds Wikileaks published about Canada this week.
Written after interviews with RCMP officers and Montreal police detectives, the U.S. diplomats described a major Canadian city grappling with extensive underworld criminality.
A common factor: Hells Angels outlaw biker gang involvement, the diplomats wrote.
The officials also reported that, based on their private chats with Mounties, the national police force lacked sufficient resources to properly investigate such crimes or considered some, like video piracy, a lower priority.
One cable discussed the extensive use of - and trafficking in - underage girls in Montreal strip clubs and prostitution operations. In addition to exploiting runaway local teens, organized crime smuggled and imported foreign women and girls into Montreal to work the sex trade.
Such operations are expanding from Montreal to Ontario cities such as Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls, a U.S. diplomat wrote in a 2003 cable, adding that Chinese girls (using fake Japanese passports), Russians and Indian girls were brought to Quebec for the sex trade.
U.S. diplomats obtained data from the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association that suggested 18% of all pirated movies sold around the globe were traceable to recording in Montreal theatres, costing Canadian members alone more than $118 million in 2005.
The RCMP did arrest one unidentified video pirate in Montreal, but reportedly told U.S. diplomats they only did so "as a personal favour" to an unidentified CMPDA official, one cable suggests.
At the time, Mounties complained there was no criminal code provision to prosecute illegal camcorder pirates, making such probes a "low priority." They said they would focus intellectual property crime investigations on counterfeit drugs instead.
Since that cable was written, the federal government passed legislation that makes it a criminal code offence (in addition to a Copyright Act offence) for people to make video recordings of movies playing in a cinema or movie theatre for commercial purposes.
U.S. diplomats also complained U.S. senior citizens were being targeted by well-organized telemarketing fraud "boiler rooms" in Montreal and Toronto, working in cahoots with U.S.-based fraudsters.
Montreal is a favourite for such scams, the diplomat wrote, because of cheap call centre labour and hydro-power and "lax regulations."
Annual losses total $700 million, with the Hells Angels biker gang running the larger boiler rooms, a U.S. diplomat wrote in March 2006.
"In the U.S., telemarketing scammers can be charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. In Quebec, regulations are significantly more lax," the cable stated, noting that strict Quebec privacy laws make it harder for Canadian police to get cell phone account information for probes than their U.S. counterparts.
Though the RCMP has responsibility to pursue telemarketing scammers in Canada, "in many cases (it) lacks the resources to pursue and convict suspect operations," a U.S. diplomat added.

http://www.torontosun.com/2011/04/29/leaked-cables-paint-unflattering-portrait-of-montreal


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