Salim Henareh’s business activity was tracked by RCMP, FINTRAC for 15 years
A Toronto businessman wanted in the United States on felony charges for allegedly helping Iran's regime evade sanctions was also on the radar of Canadian law enforcement for more than 15 years.
Salim Henareh, who now markets himself online as the owner of a private mortgage company in Toronto, has been under suspicion for money laundering since at least 2007, according to new court documents.
The documents show Canada and its partner nations in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance believed Henareh's businesses were central to a multi-billion dollar international money laundering network.
A 2015 RCMP report lists Henareh's money service business as a potential intermediary in a money laundering ring believed to be run by Altaf Khanani, a Pakistani businessman accused by the U.S. State Department of laundering billions of dollars for organized crime and terrorist outfits.
Despite the RCMP amassing what an analyst described in an email as "resounding" amounts of circumstantial evidence, Henareh hasn't been charged with any financial crimes in Canada.
Garry Clement, a former RCMP superintendent who managed the force's financial crime program, reviewed the documents and said the case should serve as a wake-up call for the RCMP.
"Sadly, I think it shows an inability to take on transnational organized crime," Clement said.
The court documents were released as part of a trove of intelligence records central to the high-profile trial of former RCMP intelligence director Cameron Ortis, who is accused of leaking secret information.
Ortis faces six charges, including four counts under the Security of Information Act, a law reserved for delicate security matters such as espionage, terrorism and insider threats.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Henareh's lawyer, Barry Fox, has denied all wrongdoing on behalf of his client.
"The allegations against Mr. Henareh have been fully investigated by the RCMP and he has been completely exonerated," Fox said in a written statement.
The court documents tabled in Ortis's trial include an RCMP report from 2015 on "Project Oryx," a probe of an alleged money laundering ring in the Greater Toronto Area.
The RCMP's report said Henareh's business was believed to be an intermediary for businesses linked to Khanani.
In 2013, Canada's financial intelligence agency — the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) — wrote that it had "reasonable grounds" to suspect Henareh's business activity was "related to [a] money laundering offence."
Clement said Canada "has become known as a safe haven for transnational organized crime."
"Five Eyes have expressed real frustration with Canada," he said. "I was recently down the States and I've spoken with former investigators from the major agencies in the United States, and they're extremely frustrated with Canada."
Henareh 'extremely knowledgeable': RCMP analyst
The court documents show that in 2015, Ortis asked RCMP colleagues to share details of authorities' efforts to target Henareh's money service business Rosco Trading, formerly known as Persepolis.
That colleague, RCMP intelligence analyst Walter Mendonca, responded in an email with what he described as a "quick and dirty" rundown.
"Henareh is believed to launder money on behalf of [organized crime] groups across Canada, transporting money to U.S., etc." wrote Mendonca on Feb. 27, 2015. "Henareh was unsuccessfully targeted by RCMP in 2007."
Mendonca wrote that undercover police went to drop off money with Rosco Trading on several occasions. On one occasion, he wrote, when an undercover officer mentioned dirty money, a worker "just walked away without picking up the money."
"Henareh is extremely knowledgeable of the laws and knows how to navigate them," wrote Mendonca.
"Despite their (sic) being resounding amounts of circumstantial evidence, Crown refused to lay charges because they didn't have anything concrete that could prove they were knowingly moving dirty money."
In that email, Mendonca also stated that between 2008 and January 2014, Rosco transferred about $1.2 billion and was the subject of 164 suspicious transaction reports.
Documents tabled in Ortis's trial show Henareh received a package by courierin March 2015 containing a compact disc with files containing intelligence Canadian authorities had gathered.
In a letter addressed to Henareh found on a USB key belonging to Ortis, Henareh was told he was being targeted by police and FINTRAC.
"In addition to FINTRAC's probe targeting your business activities and partners, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is currently engaged in a criminal intelligence operation using the data attached here, provided to them by FINTRAC, with the eventual goal of a full criminal investigation against Rosco Trading," the March 19, 2015 letter said.
The letter recommends that Henareh "learn" from the "intelligence" and says that the information came with "no strings attached."
Henareh advised police he received the package and 11 pages of financial documents, along with a DVD containing even more.
The defence in the Ortis case has not presented its case but has said it will argue Ortis had full authority to do what he did. Ortis's trial is entering the second week.
American felony charges
Clement and members of the Iranian diaspora suggested earlier this year that Canada might be acting as a safe haven for Henareh.
In February, Henareh's lawyer Fox called the American allegations "baseless."
A grand jury in California concluded there was enough evidence in April 2021 to indict Henareh on felony charges. The indictment accused him and several others of conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions and disguise transactions on the Iranian regime's behalf worth more than $750 million US.
The U.S. indictment alleges the scheme lasted at least from 2002 to 2018, involved Canadian money service businesses and front companies abroad and was involved in disguising the purchase of two oil tankers worth more than $51 million US for Tehran.
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Court documents tied to that case claim Iran uses front and shell companies to exploit financial systems around the world and transfer money to fund terrorist groups, human rights abuses and ballistic missile development.
An indictment allows charges to proceed; it is not a conviction. Fox has said Henareh is not affiliated with Iran's regime in any way.
CBC News has reported that Henareh appears to still be running businesses in the Toronto area, including Lenders for Growth, which claims on its website that it has "virtually limitless access to funding."
Lenders for Growth operates out of the same Toronto business plaza used by two other companies tied to Henareh and registered as active in Ontario: Rosmount Capital Funding Inc., which calls itself an "alternative lending company," and Sky Property Group Inc, which calls itself a worldwide property management company. These three companies were not named in the U.S. indictment.
The U.S. Attorney's office says the criminal case is still pending.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate McKenna is a senior reporter with CBC News. She is based in the parliamentary bureau. email@example.com.
With files from Kate Zieman and Nahayat Tizhoosh
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca