What Is FINTRAC?

FINTRAC is an acronym for the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada. Reporting to the Canadian Minister of Finance, it is an intelligence and investigative agency that monitors monetary transactions to identify and prevent illegal financial activities such as money laundering and funding to terrorist organizations.

The current Chief Executive Officer and Director of FINTRAC (as of February 2020) is Nada Semaan. The agency's annual budget is around $50 million and it employs 339 people full-time.

key takeaways

  • FINTRAC, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, is an intelligence agency within the Ministry of Finance that monitors monetary transactions to identify and prevent illegal financial activities.
  • Founded in 2000, FINTRAC reviews over 25 million transaction reports a year in an effort to uncover money laundering and terrorist funding.
  • In 2017-18, FINRA identified nearly 2,500 illegal financial transactions.

How FINTRAC Works

In order to protect the integrity and security of Canada's financial transactions, FINTRAC carefully monitors financial transaction reports for hints of suspicious behavior. FINTRAC collects personal data from individuals and organizations as part of its operations and its tasks include:

  • Protecting the information it holds
  • Conducting research to discover patterns in money laundering and terrorist support
  • Complying with all relevant regulations, such as the Privacy Act
  • Providing information from its findings to the public

FINTRAC was founded in 2000. Since 2002, it has been part of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, a global network of like-minded financial analysis organizations, and collaborates with these other organizations to monitor money laundering and terrorist funding on an international level. Other prominent Egmont Group members include the United States' Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA).

Headquartered in Ottawa, FINTRAC operates completely separately from other legal authorities, but is authorized to share the information it discovers with them. For example, if FINTRAC identifies a financial criminal (or suspect), law enforcement agencies would need to be notified in order to detain or arrest the individual. FINTRAC is under the purview of Canada's Minister of Finance and was established as part of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA).

As part of a government organization, FINTRAC must report its findings according to the Access to Information Act, which requires government information to be available to the public.

25.38m

The number of reports FINTRAC reviewed in 2017-2018, resulting in the uncovering of 2,466 illegal financial transactions, according to its annual report

Special Considerations for FINTRAC

Since FINTRAC collects individuals' personal data, it is required to adhere to regulations under Canada's Privacy Act, which specifies that personal information can only be used in relation to the purpose for which it was collected. Additionally, individuals have the right to access their own information and make any necessary corrections. FINTRAC must protect this personal information from unauthorized disclosure.

Audits in 2013 and 2009 by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) revealed that FINTRAC collected information not relevant to its initiatives. Following the 2009 audit, FINTRAC pledged to reduce the information it held to an absolute minimum; unfortunately, the subsequent the 2013 audit revealed that this reduction did not occur. The OPC and other critics spoke out against this unnecessary hoarding of information, pressuring FINTRAC to adopt quicker solutions to reducing the data it gathers and maintains.