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Money Laundering Kingpin Jailed 10 Years

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In Addition To Maximum Sentence, Judge Levies $423,000 Fine; $3 Million In Assets Forfeited

VANCOUVER -- The mastermind of a massive drug-money laundering operation was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to laundering $201 million over a three-year period for Asian and Latino gangs that imported cocaine and exported marijuana.

Dat Dac Tien ( Frank ) Tran admitted to laundering drug money and trafficking five kilograms of cocaine.

At his sentencing, Associate Chief Judge Patrick Dohm of B.C. Supreme Court ordered $3 million of Tran's assets forfeited to the Crown.

He also sentenced Tran to a 10-year prison term -- the maximum penalty for money laundering.

Tran was also ordered to pay a fine of $423,462.96, which was handed over to the court by Tran's lawyer, Terry LaLiberte, in the form of a certified cheque.

As part of Tran's plea agreement, charges were dropped against his wife, Kim Phan, so she could look after the couple's five-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter.

According to evidence presented in court, Tran first came to the attention of police in June 2001, when the now-defunct Organized Crime Agency of B.C., acting on a tip, launched a drug investigation code-named Project Blizzard that would eventually identify more than 700 targets in the illegal cocaine trade.

Around the same time, Tran was attracting the attention of the RCMP's proceeds of crime squad which was reviewing suspicious transaction reports.

The reports had been passed on by the Financial Transaction Reporting and Analysis Centre, set up by the federal government to crack down on money laundering and terrorist financing. Under federal law, a person involved in a transaction of $10,000 cash or more must declare the source of the funds on a form and list their name, address and occupation.

Tran stood out as handling an enormous volume of cash -- more than $50 million a year.

Most legitimate currency exchanges would utilize an armoured car service to handle such sums.

But Tran moved the money in his own vehicle in shopping bags, knapsacks and duffel bags.

"It was something you would expect to see in a Hollywood gangster movie," federal prosecutor Ernie Froess said Friday in court, describing the underground criminal venture as wildly successful. "It was his very success that led to his downfall."

Between Jan. 1, 2000, and Jan. 23, 2003, Frank Tran laundered $201 million, earning him the distinction of being one of the largest money launderers in Canadian history.

"Tran's money-laundering venture was nothing short of extraordinary in terms of its scope and audacity," Froess told the court.

Since the currency of choice in the international drug trade is the American dollar, Tran supplied a steady supply of U.S. funds in exchange for Canadian money, Froess added.

"With help from various associates in the Seattle area, Tran controlled an underground banking system that facilitated high-level currency transactions between B.C. and Washington state without any money having to be physically smuggled.

"This greatly reduced the risk of police interdiction and permitted Tran to run his business with virtual impunity for years."
 

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