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Canadian Intelligence Report Names Investor Laundering Millions For Iran

A Toronto-based company owned by Alireza Onghaei, a 44-year-old Iranian investor immigrant, helped the Iranian government in the clandestine wiring of monies into Canada, according to a report by Canadian Intelligence obtained by the Canadian television station Global News.

Global News on Tuesday said the CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) report, dated December 20, 2019, alleged Onghaei had routed millions of dollars to Canada through Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to circumvent sanctions on Iran. According to CSIS, one transfer alone was for $600,000.

The CSIS investigation related to “foreign influenced activities … that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive,” the CSIS report noted, without specifying the nature of activities or when the transactions had taken place.

According to the CSIS report, Onghaei had explained under questioning that the monies had been be transferred by Iran’s Saderat Bank via Dubai to his Canadian-based company. Onghaei admitted conducting these activities for at least three years.

Global News found the report at the Federal Court of Canada buried among hundreds of pages filed by the government in a case involving Onghaei’s application for Canadian citizenship. Onghaei, an Iranian citizen and immigrant businessman, told Global News he was the victim of discrimination and had not transferred any money to Canada for the Iranian regime, which he said he does not support.

In a September 2020 article published on the website of the Washington-based thinktank, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Alireza Nader alleged that Canada had become a major hub for Iran and its supporters while the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government pursued a “fruitless policy of engagement with Tehran."

“Canadian-Iranians have been warning their government about the regime’s growing presence on Canadian soil, yet their warnings appear to have fallen on deaf ears,” Nader wrote in his article ‘Trudeau Fails Canadian-Iranians.’  “Instead, Ottawa has chosen to look the other way as pro-regime Canadian-Iranians invest their wealth in the Canadian economy and potentially boost the Liberal Party.”

The FDD, seen as a foreign policy hawk, often demands tough policies toward the Islamic Republic.

According to Nader, many regime officials and associates had laundered billions from Iran to Canada. “Why won’t the Trudeau government act?” he asked. “Perhaps the billions of dollars in investment from regime elements outweigh the concerns of the larger Canadian-Iranian community and pro-democracy activists.”

Nader described Canada as “top refuge” for regime officials, citing “Canadian-Iranian democracy activists” reporting such officials buying property and settling into comfortable lives in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. 

Canada eased sanctions on Iran under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but bilateral trade is still relatively low, at $213 million in the Iranian year ending March 2019, while banks and businesses are wary of the United States secondary sanctions introduced since 2018.

According to Canada’s 2016 census profile, 42,000 Iranians emigrated to Canada between 2011 and 2016, and over 210,000 Canadian citizens are of Iranian descent. Many other Iranians live in Canada on student or other visas, with their numbers put as high as 800,000 by Iranian sources.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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