The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, also known as FINTRAC, is a specialized government agency tasked with detecting, preventing and deterring money laundering, terrorist financing and other threats to Canada’s financial system. As the regulator of reporting entities like banks, money services businesses, securities dealers and more, FINTRAC plays a critical role in safeguarding the integrity of Canada’s financial sector.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about FINTRAC – from its history and mandate, to its reporting obligations and analysis functions. Whether you are a reporting entity looking to ensure compliance, or simply want to better understand this important component of Canada’s anti-money laundering regime, read on for an in-depth look at FINTRAC.

A Brief History of FINTRAC

FINTRAC was established in 2000 in response to recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), an intergovernmental organization that sets international standards to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

Canada first became a member of the FATF in 1991. In the late 1990s, the FATF reviewed Canada’s anti-money laundering policies and determined that while Canada had a strong legislative framework, its operational capacity needed strengthening.

This led to the creation of FINTRAC under Canada’s Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act. FINTRAC was given the mandate to facilitate the detection, prevention and deterrence of money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.

Over the years, FINTRAC’s mandate has expanded beyond money laundering to include threats to the security of Canada such as:

  • Terrorist financing – providing or collecting funds to carry out terrorist acts
  • Laundering proceeds of corruption – hiding funds gained via foreign corruption
  • Organized crime – concealing profits gained from criminal networks

FINTRAC has also seen its compliance regime and reporting obligations broaden over time. Key expansions include:

  • 2001 – Reporting of suspicious transactions
  • 2008 – Reporting of cross-border electronic funds transfers
  • 2009 – Reporting by money services businesses
  • 2021 – Reporting on recipients of $10,000+ cash payments

This steady strengthening of Canada’s anti-money laundering framework underscores FINTRAC’s vital role in safeguarding financial integrity.

FINTRAC’s Mandate and Responsibilities

As an independent agency, FINTRAC has a clear mandate under Canada’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regime:

  • Detect and deter – Identify money laundering and terrorist financing to aid law enforcement in building cases against these crimes. Deter such activities through compliance measures.
  • Compliance – Ensure reporting entities comply with legislative requirements to identify clients, keep records, report suspicious transactions and more.
  • Analysis – Receive and analyze reports from reporting entities to uncover financial crime patterns and activities. Disclose actionable intelligence to law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
  • Policy – Make policy recommendations to strengthen Canada’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing framework. Engage in outreach to improve compliance.

To fulfill its mandate, FINTRAC leverages financial intelligence provided by reporting entities, advanced data analytics, and collaboration with domestic and international partners.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Administering Canada’s regulatory framework by providing policy interpretation and issuing guidance
  • Registering reporting entities and overseeing their compliance via audits and reviews
  • Receiving and securely storing reports on transactions, suspicious dealings and cross-border movements of currency and monetary instruments
  • Analyzing these reports using sophisticated techniques and information from a variety of sources
  • Disclosing relevant financial intelligence to law enforcement, CSIS, the CRA and other agencies
  • Engaging in domestic and global partnerships to enhance information exchange and analysis

Taken together, these responsibilities give FINTRAC extensive reach across Canada’s financial sector to detect and deter threats.

FINTRAC’s Reporting Entities

FINTRAC’s regulatory regime applies to a range of businesses and entities involved in Canada’s financial system, collectively referred to as reporting entities.

The main categories of reporting entities under FINTRAC’s compliance regime include:

Financial Entities

  • Banks – domestic and foreign banks operating in Canada
  • Credit unions – federal credit unions as well as provincially regulated credit unions and caisses populaires
  • Caisses populaires – credit unions in Quebec
  • Trust and loan companies – trust companies and loan companies under Federal or provincial acts
  • Life insurance companies, brokers and agents – only with respect to life insurance policies with cash surrender value
  • Securities dealers – investment dealers and mutual fund dealers

Money Services Businesses

  • Foreign exchange dealers – currency exchange services
  • Money transfer services – funds transfer and remittance services
  • Virtual currency dealers – exchange between virtual currencies and fiat currencies
  • Cheque cashing services – cashing or issuing payment instruments

Other Designated Entities

  • Real estate – real estate brokers or sales representatives
  • Casinos – those authorized to conduct business by provinces
  • Accountants and accounting firms – only when engaged in specific activities like receiving funds from the public
  • Dealers of luxury goods – selling new goods over $10,000 cash
  • MSBs offering prepaid cards
  • British Columbia notaries – in certain circumstances

Depending on their type, reporting entities have obligations like client identification, record-keeping, reporting transactions, addressing compliance deficiencies and more. For instance, banks have extensive reporting obligations including large cash transaction reports, suspicious transaction reports, and reports on cross-border wire transfers.

Overall, FINTRAC oversees over 25,000 reporting entities spanning banks, credit unions, securities dealers, money service businesses, real estate brokers and more. This reporting coverage allows FINTRAC to capture financial intelligence across diverse sectors.

Key FINTRAC Reporting Forms

FINTRAC receives various reports from reporting entities that provide valuable financial intelligence. Key reporting forms include:

Large Cash Transaction Reports (LCTRs)

  • Filed for receipt of $10,000 or more cash in a single transaction
  • Include information like name, address, date of birth and occupation of individual conducting transaction
  • Help FINTRAC analyze cash-based money laundering typologies

Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs)

  • Filed when a reporting entity suspects a transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing
  • Provide information about the transaction, related accounts and rationale for suspicion
  • Enable FINTRAC to uncover potential laundering via tips from financial entities

Cross-border Currency Reports (CBCRs)

  • Filed when $10,000 or more in currency/monetary instruments transported across Canadian borders
  • Include details on who is carrying the currency, its origin, destination etc.
  • Help detect unreported cross-border cash that may be tied to money laundering

Cross-border Wire Transfers (CBWTs)

  • Filed for electronic transfers of $1,000 or more internationally sent or received by a reporting entity
  • Contain identity information on ordering client, beneficiary and their respective institutions
  • Enable tracing of funds tied to laundering that flow electronically across borders

Terrorist Property Reports (TPRs)

  • Filed when property owned/controlled by a listed terrorist entity is identified
  • Help identify and freeze assets intended for terrorist financing

Analysis of these reports and the financial intelligence they contain allows FINTRAC to pinpoint money laundering schemes, terrorist financing channels and other threats.

Compliance Reviews and Penalties

A key part of FINTRAC’s mandate is ensuring reporting entities comply with legislative requirements.

FINTRAC conducts three main types of compliance assessments:

Compliance examinations – On-site audits done periodically to review policies, procedures, systems and reporting practices.

Compliance reviews – Desk reviews assessing reporting volumes, reporting timeliness, data quality and reporting deficiencies.

Compliance verification – Follow-up desk reviews done 18-30 months after an examination.

Through these reviews, FINTRAC verifies that entities have adequate compliance regimes meeting obligations in areas like:

  • Risk assessment
  • Policies and procedures
  • Training
  • Record keeping
  • Reporting timeliness and accuracy
  • Internal controls
  • New client due diligence
  • Ongoing monitoring

If deficiencies are found, FINTRAC works with entities to correct them. But it can also take stringent enforcement action against non-compliance:

  • Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs) – Fines for violations like failure to report, late reporting, incomplete reporting or inadequate compliance. These can range from $1,000 to $500,000 per violation.
  • Notices of Violation (NOVs) – Issued for minor violations to put entity on notice and recommend corrections. Failure to rectify may lead to AMPs.
  • Prosecution – In criminal cases, referral to law enforcement for more severe penalties like fines, imprisonment or both.

This risk of steep penalties ensures reporting entities prioritize compliance with FINTRAC obligations. Rigorous enforcement safeguards the integrity of Canada’s anti-money laundering regime.

FINTRAC’s Financial Analysis

At its core, FINTRAC serves as Canada’s financial intelligence unit – leveraging reports and information from diverse sources to uncover money laundering schemes, terrorist financing channels and other threats.

FINTRAC employs specialized financial analysts who use the latest data analytics techniques to process and analyze the vast amount of financial intelligence available.

Key aspects of FINTRAC’s financial analysis include:

Receiving Reports

  • Securely receives 100s of 1000s of reports annually from reporting entities across Canada – everything from suspicious transaction reports to terrorist property reports.

Data Processing

  • Structures and processes the reported data into databases optimized for analysis.

Information Gathering

  • Augments reported data through information requests sent to reporting entities asking for more details on entities, transactions, accounts etc.
  • Accesses additional information from open sources, commercial databases, law enforcement data and international partners to supplement internal analysis.

Pattern Analysis

  • Uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, social network analysis, and other techniques to uncover hidden patterns and relationships pointing to potential crimes.

Strategic Analysis

  • Develops operational briefs, typologies, and vertical studies to convey actionable intelligence on the latest money laundering and terrorist financing trends and methodologies.


  • Discloses relevant financial intelligence to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to further investigations, build cases and pursue prosecutions.
  • Exchanges information with international partners to tackle cross-border threats.

This cycle of collection, enhancement, analysis and disclosure powers FINTRAC’s support for detecting and deterring financial crimes across Canada.

Domestic Information Exchange and Partnerships

FINTRAC does not work in isolation – effective collaboration with partners is vital to its mission.

Key domestic partners include:

Law enforcement agencies – FINTRAC’s disclosures enable and enhance money laundering and terrorist financing investigations by the RCMP, provincial police forces and municipal police departments.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) – FINTRAC provides financial intelligence to aid CSIS in identifying and assessing threats to national security.

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) – FINTRAC discloses information relevant to CRA audit, examination and enforcement activities under the Income Tax Act and Excise Tax Act.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) – FINTRAC assists CBSA in identifying cross-border currency reporting and potential trade-based money laundering tied to customs infractions.

Department of Finance – FINTRAC supports development of a robust AML/CTF regime and policy recommendations to the Minister of Finance.

OSFI – FINTRAC collaborates with OSFI to ensure safety and soundness standards consider money laundering and terrorist financing risks appropriately.

Provincial securities regulators – FINTRAC shares relevant financial intelligence to aid in enforcement actions on illegal distributions, insider trading and other securities-related crimes.

By coordinating with partners across law enforcement, national security, taxation, trade and finance, FINTRAC magnifies its reach and impact.

International Partnerships

Given the global nature of money laundering and terrorist financing, FINTRAC prioritizes partnerships beyond Canada’s borders:

The Egmont Group – FINTRAC is a member of Egmont, an international consortium of over 160 financial intelligence units (FIUs). Egmont promotes collaboration between FIUs and provides a secure channel for information exchange.

FATF – As Canada’s representative, FINTRAC engages with FATF to strengthen global anti-money laundering standards.

FIU Agreements – FINTRAC has bilateral FIU agreements with partner countries like the US, UK, Australia, Belgium and more to facilitate intelligence sharing.

Law Enforcement Partners – FINTRAC regularly collaborates with US agencies like FINCEN, the FBI, DEA, ICE and others to combat cross-border financial crimes through sharing of financial intelligence.

Secondments – FINTRAC personnel undertake secondments with international partners to foster cooperation and exchange best practices.

Leveraging these global partnerships amplifies FINTRAC’s analytical capacity and allows joint action against international money laundering and terrorist financing threats.

The Impact of FINTRAC’s Operations

FINTRAC’s operations have far-reaching impacts on strengthening Canada’s financial system integrity:

  • Enhanced detection – by receiving and analyzing 100,000+ reports annually, FINTRAC detects many more instances of potential money laundering than reporting entities can uncover independently.
  • Financial intelligence – FINTRAC’s disclosures provide invaluable information that enhances law enforcement investigations and intelligence operations – leading to arrests, seized assets, frozen accounts and charges laid.
  • Improved compliance – Broad monitoring of reporting entities’ compliance deters non-reporting and ensures more complete and accurate reporting to FINTRAC.
  • Informed policy – FINTRAC’s policy advice aids the government in keeping AML/CTF laws responsive to evolving risks – recently leading to regulation of virtual currencies, foreign money services businesses, and trade-based money laundering.
  • Changed behaviour – By enforcing severe penalties for non-compliance, FINTRAC motivates entities to strengthen internal controls, conduct better risk assessments and allocate more resources to compliance.
  • Global cooperation – FINTRAC’s participation in worldwide forums advances information exchange and joint action against threats spanning international borders.
  • Public confidence – FINTRAC’s oversight safeguards the transparency and stability of Canada’s financial system – contributing to public trust.

Taken together, FINTRAC’s operations act as a vital bulwark enhancing the resilience of Canada’s economy against criminal abuse. Two decades on, FINTRAC continues pursuing its mandate of detecting threats early, deterring criminal activity and safeguarding Canada’s financial sector integrity.


FINTRAC stands at the forefront of Canada’s fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. By administering a robust compliance regime, collecting and analyzing financial intelligence, and disseminating actionable information, FINTRAC sheds light on threats and strengthens the integrity of Canada’s financial system.

Staying abreast of FINTRAC’s operations is important for all players in Canada’s financial arena – from major banks and securities dealers to lawyers, accountants, and money services businesses. Understanding your obligations, leveraging FINTRAC’s guidance, and adhering to best practices will position your compliance program to deter abuse.

With the persistence of money laundering and terrorist financing risks, FINTRAC’s mandate remains as vital as ever. This specialized financial intelligence unit will continue evolving its intelligence collection and analytical capacity to stay ahead of emerging typologies.

Robust public-private collaboration will also grow in importance for FINTRAC to keep pace amid constant change in technology, financial practices, and criminal ingenuity. With the benefit of FINTRAC’s oversight, Canada’s financial institutions can have confidence that threats will be detected early and risk mitigated – contributing to a transparent and resilient financial system we can all have faith in.