Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cash in bag from crime: Mounties

Bus rider charged year later

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His big mistake was getting off the bus in Winnipeg to stretch his legs -- with $1.3 million in cash in his backpack, police say.

An Ontario man under securities investigation in British Columbia, who may also be a Swiss national and who has a financial company in Switzerland and another financial company operating in the British Virgin Islands, reportedly had almost 12 kilograms of cash, mainly in $100 bills, in his backpack on Feb. 27, 2012, when he had to pass through security at the Winnipeg bus depot to get back on the bus to Vancouver.

Monday, Manitoba RCMP announced after a year-long investigation that Erwin Thomas Speckert, 50, of Minden, Ont., faces charges alleging he possessed proceeds of crime for the purpose of trafficking and laundering, and that the money was allegedly the proceeds of illegal gaming in Ontario.

"The story goes, he was en route to Vancouver, B.C., and had a pit stop here in the Greyhound bus terminal," RCMP Sgt. Line Karpish said Monday. "Security became aware this man had a lot of cash in his backpack" and called Winnipeg police, Karpish said.

The man may not have been aware of Greyhound's tightened security following the slaying of a bus passenger near Portage la Prairie in July 2008, said Karpish, praising Greyhound officials for their vigilance.

The man's explanation for having the cash was sufficiently compelling that he was eventually allowed to go on his way, said Karpish, who declined to give details: "I can't really delve into the conversations and evidentiary situation," she said.

But the Mounties launched an investigation that included the Toronto Combined Forces special-enforcement unit, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Winnipeg Police Service and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

Last Friday, after a warrant was issued and following negotiations through his lawyer, Speckert turned himself in to RCMP in Winnipeg, Karpish said.

She would not elaborate on the charges, nor would she say anything more about the allegation the money was the proceeds of illegal gaming in Ontario. Minden is a small town in eastern Ontario cottage country.

"This is a Manitoba investigation and these are Manitoba charges," Karpish said.

In Vancouver Monday, Richard Gilhooley of the British Columbia Securities Commission confirmed Speckert is the same man who has been under regulatory investigation there for his alleged role as an intermediary in the trading of stocks in which alleged "false and misleading statements" occurred.

"We're saying he's a Swiss national, because that's part of his defence, that we don't have jurisdiction" against him, Gilhooley said.

The B.C. Securities Commission is alleging Speckert was an intermediary for a B.C. firm that "writes up tout sheets" for stocks and that as much as $8.2 million changed hands with a company that Speckert operates out of the British Virgin Islands.

"Highly unregulated penny stocks are what they are," Gilhooley said.

The securities commission believes Speckert is the managing director of a Swiss company called Everest Asset Management.

"BCSC staff contend that Speckert acts as an intermediary for undisclosed persons who secretly promote securities in or through B.C.," the commission said in an earlier news release.

The criminal charges that Speckert faces in Manitoba took regulatory investigators in Vancouver by surprise Monday, Gilhooley said.

Meanwhile, Peter Lamey of FINTRAC said from Ottawa his federal agency analyzes "financial transactions where the proceeds of crime are involved" for police departments.

Karpish said Speckert has been released on a recognizance to appear in court in Winnipeg April 22.

He is charged with possession of proceeds of crime, trafficking in proceeds of crime, possession for the purpose of trafficking in proceeds of crime, and laundering of proceeds of crime regarding funds alleged to be the proceeds of illegal gaming in Ontario.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 26, 2013 A3

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