Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press 2011/07/06
OTTAWA - Sophisticated criminals are using special compartments built into tractor trailers to smuggle cash across borders, says the RCMP.
A Mountie intelligence report obtained by The Canadian Press warns that organized crime is exploiting the trucking industry to move money, drugs and people.
"Moving large amounts of cash may be the pinnacle of success for these criminal organizations, demonstrating a high level of trust and elevated status," the RCMP found.
Customized compartments fashioned into tractor trailers are used to conceal contraband, yet increasingly specialized ones are being used to hide cash, the report says.
A declassified version of the report, completed last year, was recently released under the Access to Information Act. Portions considered too sensitive to release were withheld by the RCMP.
"Criminals are operating with a rapidly expanding trucking industry that is challenging to regulate and includes cross-border movement of goods," says the RCMP assessment of the threat, dubbed Project Stall.
Cocaine is the most common illegal commodity intercepted in commercial trucks entering Canada and marijuana is most often nabbed domestically, says the report.
The trucking industry moves more than 70 per cent of goods into Canada from the United States and employs 400,000 people. Almost three-quarters of the cross-border traffic passes through points in Ontario and Quebec, which have close to 31,500 owner-operators.
The report notes truck traffic is expected to expand significantly over the next decade on North American Free Trade Agreement corridors.
It describes a complex web of relationships between governments, regulatory bodies and transportation and trucking associations.
"Criminal groups conceal their illicit activities through layers of company ownerships, name changes and, transfers and closures," says the report.
Stolen or fraudulently acquired FAST passes — which streamline the often time-consuming process of crossing the border — "demonstrate the vulnerability of these measures" to organized crime, it adds.
The elaborate means by which good are transferred through a number of shipping, receiving and transport companies further confuse efforts to pinpoint crime.