Money Laundering Case At Ontario Casinos Prompts Regulator Investigation

Written By Matthew Lomon on May 3, 2023
Money laundering

The Ontario government is turning up the heat in the investigation into accused money launderer, Branavan Kanapathipillai.

On May 1, news broke that a provincial government watchdog will review the actions of multiple Ontario retail casinos that accepted several suspicious cash transactions from Kanapathipillai, totalling more than $4 million.

The review stems from a CTV News Toronto investigation that went live on April 28. It found that a series of substantial cash buy-ins by Kanapathipillai prompted casino staff to author suspicious transaction reports and alert law enforcement. Notably, casino staff members still accepted the cash despite its source being “unclear.”

“With the police investigation now complete, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s Anti-Money Laundering Unit will be initiating a compliance review to assess whether casino operators met their regulatory obligations under the Registrar’s Standards,” the AGCO said in a statement.

Review to explore enhanced anti-money laundering measures for casinos

Under the current rules, money laundering and casinos are as smooth a pairing as Cabernet Sauvignon and a medium-rare ribeye.

That duo might work wonders in the restaurants, but analogy aside, it has no business corrupting casino operations.

The review sets out to fight this persistent problem by including new strategies to prevent and identify suspected money laundering attempts. Specifically, casino operators may soon be required to implement ‘source of funds checks’ when dealing with curious transactions.

Though not as comprehensive as British Columbia’s unexplained wealth orders, source of funds checks are a considerable step up from the most recent precautionary measures.

As of 2022, there was a requirement for casinos to “ascertain and reasonably corroborate a patron’s source of funds.” However, in Kanapathipillai’s case, his casino transaction history, as detailed by officers in a Newmarket Superior Court, shows otherwise.

Supposedly, in some cases, casinos would accept cash from the accused without him clearly outlining its origins. While the requirements for satisfying a ‘clear’ outline remain vague, law enforcement believes Kanapathipillai evaded proper procedures on several occasions.

Timeline of Kanapathipillai’s suspicious casino transactions

The alleged money launderer has connections to hundreds of casino transactions reports, totalling $11 million, dating back to 2011. Here are some of his most notable dealings.

December 2016 at Casino Rama

Kanapathipillai presented $80,000 in cash, separated into eight bundles worth $10,000 each. The bundles were wrapped in elastic bands and handed to the cashier in shipping envelopes. He claimed, “the money was presented that way when he received it from Fallsview Casino,” according to an officer working the case.

Fallsview says that depositing cash and withdrawing funds from his account were “inconsistent” with his gaming activity.

July 2022 at Pickering Casino

During the month of July, Kanapathipillai made 10 transactions ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, totalling $824,700. The casino said that the source of cash was unclear, noting it was atypical for an individual to possess such a hefty amount of cash. The report also mentions that “unsourced cash is an indicator of possible money laundering.”

To date, more than 100 of his transactions at Pickering Casino were not related to gambling activity.

September 2022 at One Toronto Gaming

Between ventures at various One Toronto Gaming locations, Kanapathipillai generated $1,529,700 in large transactions and $1,348,115 in disbursements.

These six-figure transactions led investigators to believe “he may be gaming with a third party’s source of funds.”

November 2022 at Fallsview Casino

Kanapathipillai’s most recent buy-in attempt, which saw him present roughly $100,000, tipped off casino staff who flagged the transaction. He says he was gambling with funds from a third mortgage, but officers ended up seizing the cash anyway.

Amidst reports of fleeing the country, he, unsurprisingly, did not attend a hearing about whether the seizure would be permanent.

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Matthew Lomon

Born in Mississauga, ON in the year 2000, Matthew Lomon grew up surrounded by sports as a fan and participant. He played baseball at both the AAA and Elite levels, travelling across Canada and the United States. After his playing career, Matthew attended Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly known as Ryerson), graduating with distinction in the Spring of 2022 with a degree in Professional Communication.

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