Criminologist’s latest book examines money laundering

Before it was even published, York criminologist Margaret Beare’s book Money Laundering in Canada: Chasing Dangerous and Dirty Dollars, caught the attention of the National Post. On Aug. 3, the Toronto newspaper heralded its findings – of unsavoury connections between lawyers and organized crime.

Left: Margaret Beare

Written with Stephen Schneider, a criminology professor at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Money Laundering is one of two books by Beare expected on the stands this fall.

This new work by Beare and Schneider brings empirical evidence to the study of money laundering in Canada – a topic that has recently assumed an international profile. They challenge the seemingly common sense notion, fueled by political posturing and policing rhetoric, that taking the profits away from criminals ought to be a priority rather than one of many law enforcement strategies. Using data from police cases, the inner working of financial institutions, and the “successful” claims of privilege from our legal profession, the final picture that the authors paint is of a good enforcement strategy run amok amid conflicting interests and agendas, an overly ambitious set of expectations, and an ambiguous body of evidence as to the strategy’s overall merits.

Beare told the National Post that unsavoury ties between the legal profession and organized crime have been well-documented throughout history. Sometimes a lawyer’s involvement in illicit activity is unwitting, she said. But when attorneys perform sustained, long-term legal services for the underworld, she said history has shown the line can all too easily be crossed from legitimate business to active participation.

“There is a difference between providing a service – a one-off kind of thing – and specializing so intimately with the operations of a criminal organization that you are no longer just a neutral party providing a service but a member of the criminal organization,” Beare told the Post.

The other upcoming book by Beare is Police and Government Relations: Who’s Calling the Shots. Co-edited with Tonita Murray, a former executive director of the Canadian Police College, it is concerned with the broad question of control of the police and our understanding of both the independence and accountability of the police for their actions. This book is the product of an academic symposium held at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and funded by the Ipperwash Inquiry. Its release this fall will coincide with the release of the inquiry report.

Money Laundering in Canada and Police and Government Relations are not Beare’s first books. The Cambridge and Columbia-educated criminologist and former director of Osgoode’s Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime & Corruption, has been involved in police research for more than 25 years. She served 11 years with the Department of the Solicitor General Canada, two as director of police policy and research. Her 1996 book, Criminal Conspiracies: Organized Crime in Canada, was the first academic book to look at organized crime in Canada and to trace the development of the concept and the legislation. Her edited book, titled Critical Reflections on Transnational Organized Crime, Money Laundering, and Corruption, was published in 2003

Beare joined York’s Department of Sociology in 1995 and was cross-appointed to Osgoode in 2002. Her research and supervisory interests include transnationalization of crime and law enforcement; public and private policing; organized crime; women and the criminal justice system; private policing; money laundering; public policing strategies and corrections; international regulatory issues. She teaches a course called Law and Social Change: Policing, as well as courses in organized crime and policing in the Department of Sociology.