York prof says casinos hide behind the law in money laundering

Casinos are hiding behind the law, which clears them of any responsibility to prevent illicit money from passing through their businesses, says an expert on money laundering, wrote Vancouver, BC’s The Province Jan. 6.

Margaret Beare, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and a researcher at the Jack & Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security, was reacting to the release of documents by the CBC Wednesday pointing to a spike in high-value cash transactions at BC casinos in 2010. “They have no reason to give a damn,” said Beare. “Like everyone else, they’re in the business to make money.”

Beare and other experts say there’s no shortage of ways for criminals to launder money in BC, although casinos make an especially tempting target because it takes months for police to be notified of suspicious transactions.

So-called dirty money is moved through countless venues in BC, from jewelry to mortgages, cars to construction. A lot of it doesn’t go far, Beare said. “Much of the money that people fixate over as being laundered is being spent,” Beare said. “Ordinary criminals spend their money buying cars and sending their kids to school. A lot of dirty money gets p—-ed away just as fast as it comes in.”

  • Below are some of the ways in which governments and police combat money laundering, wrote The Province Jan. 6.

Lawyers: Prohibited by the Law Society of BC from accepting large cash payments (except for professional fees, expenses or bail, or amounts from police or pursuant to a court order, or while executing a will) and required to identify clients. (Lawyers were identified in a 2004 York University report as playing a role, often unwittingly, in half of 149 major money-laundering and proceeds of crime cases the RCMP solved in the 1990s.)

What you don’t know about a deal you haven’t heard of

In coming days, Canadian and European officials will intensify negotiations on a new trade agreement most Canadians have never heard of, wrote Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians in The Globe and Mail Jan. 6. The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is by far the largest free-trade deal this country has ever undertaken.

CETA will likely have a NAFTA-type investor-state enforcement mechanism, which means that European corporations will have the same right that US companies now enjoy to sue the Canadian government if it introduces new rules to protect the environment. Gus Van Harten of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and David Schneiderman of the University of Toronto’s law faculty warn that this tool emphasizes investor protection over government policy in environmental protection, and provides a powerful new means for large corporations to frustrate regulatory initiatives without a comparable mechanism to police these same companies.

The dish on phosphates

Excessive phosphorus dumps have become a major problem for Canada’s waterways, says Professor Lewis Molot, an environmental scientist in York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, wrote the National Post Jan. 6 in a story about a little-known move by the federal government banning the substance.

Phosphorus in certain detergents and cleaning products softens water, reduces spotting and rusting, holds dirt and increases performance. But it is also a plant fertilizer, Molot says, meaning when it enters a lake, it causes massive amounts of algae to grow. “When the algae die, they sink to the bottom of the lake and are consumed by bacteria. In the process, these bacteria consume all the oxygen, leading to the asphyxiation of fish,” Molot said.

The chemical also causes algal blooms – massive green blob-like growths – which can raise pH levels in water to toxic levels and block water intake pipes. Molot says dirty dishes are a small price to pay for preventing the spread of phosphorus. “Either the public pays huge amounts of money to remove the phosphorus at the end of the pipe, or it can choose the cheaper alternative to reduce the amount of phosphorus going into our sewers in the first place,” he said. “If I have to pay a little more for a greener detergent, even if it means it doesn’t clean the way it used to, I’ll put up with it.”

Starbucks keeps siren, cuts name

The Starbucks siren is about to go through a bit of a make-under, or simplification as the coffee giant continues to reach beyond the beverages that form the core of its brand, wrote the Toronto Star, Jan. 5.

The shift in the Starbucks logo is viewed by marketing and graphic design experts as a natural evolution for a company looking to improve brand recognition and extend its reach. “Getting rid of coffee was totally predictable because they want to be more than coffee,” said marketing expert Alan Middleton, professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University. “I am very surprised they got rid of the Starbucks name,” he said.

He said the new siren could be applied to a broader range of products. However, the elimination of the words “suggests maybe a little over confidence” when it comes to brand recognition, he said. But added the company has so many stores in North America it would be difficult for the connection to be totally lost on customers.

“Brands die and their brand-names and logos die, mostly not by big screw ups, like (new) Coke and the GAP, but by the death of a thousand cuts over time,” he said. “They do a whole bunch of wrong things over time. This may be a little thing.”

Four bee species in danger, study finds

Four previously abundant species of bumblebee are close to disappearing in the United States, researchers reported Monday in a study confirming that the agriculturally important bees are being affected worldwide, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 6.

Meanwhile, Canada recently listed its first species as endangered – the rusty-patched bumblebee. A study of BC’s western bumblebee is currently underway to determine if it should also be listed as endangered. “We’re actually ahead of this US study because we’re already listing some of these species,” says Canadian bumblebee expert Sheila Colla, a PhD candidate in biology at York University.

Colla says the decline of bumblebee populations is even more disturbing than the widely publicized decreasing honeybee population. Bumblebees are native to Canada and essential to the survival of wild plants and animals.

Waiting in the wings

York grad Joe Pingue (BFA Spec.  Hons. ’96), 38, is a character actor with an impressive resume, wrote The St. Catharines Standard Jan. 6.

He has appeared in TV shows such as "Due South", "Queer as Folk", "Zoe Busiek: Wild Card", "Degrassi: The Next Generation", "Rent-a-Goalie" and "Spliced", and many movies, including The Boondock Saints, Casino Jack with Kevin Spacey, Repo Men, starring Jude Law, Forest Whitaker and Liev Schreiber, and The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman.

He moved to Los Angeles a few years ago from Toronto, and believes this is the right place right now. “Nobody knows who I am and I’ve been here for a couple of years. You have to put in the time. In Toronto, it’s easier to get work, but here I’m slugging it out and trying to be patient,” he said.

After high school, Pingue went to York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, where he studied theatre. He signed with an agent who saw him in school productions and, after graduating, immediately began getting commercial work – his first job was for Labatt beer – and continued in the theatre. “It was awesome; I had a blast,” he said. “I did that for two to three years and theatre and bit parts in movies. Right off the bat, I started getting work, but it took quite a while for my family to acknowledge I was an actor.”

Aussie puck-stopper is a York student

The future success of the Hamilton Red Wings will depend largely on a goaltender that learned to play hockey in…Australia, wrote the Hamilton Mountain News Jan. 5 in a story about York part-time business and society student Anthony Kimlin.

“I never saw snow until I came here,” said 20-year-old Kimlin, who hails from Ipswich, a suburb of Brisbane, the capital of the Australian state of Queensland on the east coast of the nation. Kimlin, along with his mom and stepdad, moved to the Toronto area in February 2005.

While many Canadians don their first pair of skates at a very young age, Kimlin, who was used to inline skating, said he didn’t try ice skating until he was 10 or 11 and didn’t start playing goal until around age 12. “I went to a free skate,” said Kimlin, who played a variety of other sports as a youth such as rugby and Australian rules football.

“Every goalie understands that pressure,” Kimlin said. “It’s tough, but that’s where the fun is, too.” Along with helping the Red Wings to a long playoff run, Kimlin said he would like to play hockey next season at a Canadian university.

York grad re-elected to head police services board

The five-year head of Toronto’s police oversight committee greeted new members at its first meeting of 2011 like a boss, wrote the Toronto Sun Jan. 5. And soon after Alok Mukherjee (PhD ’04) opened the Toronto Police Service Board meeting Wednesday at police headquarters, he was re-elected without opposition.

A former head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Mukherjee, 65, was an instructor in South Asian studies at York University and an adviser to former mayor David Miller.