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World: Canada Holds National Summit On Organized Crime

Ottawa, 1 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Canadian government has called together police, politicians, academics, lawyers and business leaders to figure out a way to fight organized crime.

The two-day meeting in Ottawa -- held mostly behind closed doors -- ended on the weekend.

The forum made a number of recommendations, including mandatory reporting by banks of suspicious transactions and giving police and customs officers the power to investigate large sums of money moving in and out of Canada.

At the end of the National Forum on Organized Crime, Solicitor General Herb Gray said the government will back the recommendations but that legislation "probably won t be introduced until next year."

He said the government will work "to develop national and regional co-ordinating committees to bring together crime enforcement agencies and policy-makers." Gray also said law enforcement agencies will have to rely "more on efficient use of funds" than on any new money.

Battling organized crime in Canada "is like killing a poisonous snake," said one of the participants. In a paper he delivered at the meeting, Pierre Sangollo, assistant director of the Montreal Urban Community Police Department, said that police "have been able to club the tail but need more help from the government to slice off the head." Sangollo said organized crime "is an estimated $20 billion-a-year business in Canada." He said half the money comes from drug sales.

"The most dangerous level of activity for our democratic society is the investment of laundered money in legal activities," says the Montreal police officer.

He said it is not the violence used by the criminals that poses the danger, "rather, the important economic power that is gained and this is the level where we are the most ineffective. Also, since no violence is used, no one seems to give it the importance it deserves."

Last month, the Canadian government released a report that said organized crime is "flourishing" in Canada and that thousands of millions of dollars are earned through drug trafficking, smuggling, money laundering, counterfeiting and credit card fraud.

The report concluded that "organized criminal groups involved in a wide variety of illegal activities throughout Canada are increasingly infiltrating mainstream Canadian business and society."