Update: The U.S. Treasury Department removed Marie Boivin from its list of sanctioned individuals in August 2017. Read the updated story here.
The U.S. Treasury Department says it’s sanctioning a prominent member of Ottawa’s business community after alleging her firm, Accu-Rate Corp., facilitated illicit cash transactions.
The move is part of a wider investigation targeting “a significant transnational criminal organization” involved in laundering millions of dollars, the American government department said in a statement.
Late last week, the Treasury Department sanctioned 12 individuals and 24 entities. The list includes local foreign exchange firm Accu-Rate, its president, Paul Davis, and managing director Marie Boivin.
Ms. Boivin is also the chair of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce. She was previously a Businesswoman of the Year nominee in 2015 and Forty Under 40 recipient in 2009.
The sanctions mean that U.S. individuals are prohibited from having any business dealings with the company or the two executives. Additionally, their property that’s subject to U.S. jurisdiction is frozen.
Accu-Rate is accused of being a “subsidiary or affiliate company” of PacNet Services Ltd., which American investigators allege has a long history of money laundering by processing payments derived from mail fraud schemes that target victims around the world.
“PacNet has knowingly facilitated the fraudulent activities of its customers for many years,” stated John Smith, the acting director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Ms. Boivin has not responded to requests for comment. However, she told Business in Vancouver that Accu-Rate is not connected with PacNet, adding her c ompany has hired law firm McMillan LLP “to vigorously contest our inclusion in the Treasury Department’s actions against the PacNet Group of Vancouver.”
“We were very concerned to read about these allegations concerning PacNet and shocked to see Accu-Rate unfairly included by extension,” Ms. Boivin wrote in an e-mail to the publication. “Neither Accu-Rate nor its management is aware of or has been involved in any way with the actions for which the PacNet Group is targeted.”
Ms. Boivin told Business in Vancouver Accu-Rate would immediately appoint an auditing and accounting firm to oversee the company's operations until it can address the allegations.
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce said Ms. Boivin has been "a committed and valued member" of its board since 2010.
"The board of the Ottawa Chamber is aware of the allegations involving Ms. Boivin and her company," the statement said. "The board of directors is reviewing and will consider developments in this matter before determining the best course for the Ottawa Chamber."
According to the Treasury Department, Mr. Davis is also the managing director and sole shareholder of Counting House, a company with operations in Vancouver that is linked to PacNet.
For its part, PacNet Services denied any wrongdoing in a statement posted on its website that said the company found out about the allegations against it solely through media reports.
PacNet says it plans to defend itself against the allegations but will comply with global standards in client due diligence. In the meantime, PacNet has halted processing on all payments for direct mail companies.
Some of the frauds alleged by investigators include lotteries and other forms of mail fraud, including a $180-million psychic scheme that enticed victims to send money for various goods and services that were supposed to bring them good fortunes, such as a large inheritance.
The Treasury Department said scammers would solicit victims and arrange to have them send cheques or cash directly or through a partner company to PacNet’s processing operations.
PacNet, in turn, would make the money available to the scammers via wire transfers or by making payments on behalf of the swindlers after taking a cut, authorities allege.
The Treasury Department said this process was structured to obscure the nature of the transactions and avoid detection.
None of the Treasury Department's allegations have been proven in court.
-David Sali, Craig Lord and Peter Kovessy contributed to this story