Anonymous Companies: Global Witness undercover investigation shows 25% of lawyers will money launder

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

An undercover investigation by Global Witness found that twenty-five percent of the New York lawyers they approached were willing to become involved in moving suspect monies into the United States. Several of the lawyers even suggested that their trust accounts could be used for the purpose.

The Global Witness investigation highlights the role of anonymously-owned companies in avoiding detection of money laundering. Most of the unethical lawyers in the hidden videos suggested using anonymously-owned companies and even layers of companies to money-launder.

What is most shocking about the 25% rate of corruption is that these were all cold calls by an undercover investigator.

A stranger walked in the door and 25% of the lawyers laid out strategies to enable money-laundering or otherwise agreed to participate to varying degrees. It is reasonable to assume that some of the lawyers who refused to participate did so because they were suspicious of the undercover investigator. Some would probably have agreed to money launder had they been approached by an existing client, therefore the Global Witness figure of 25% is probably low. Perhaps very low.

Gerald L Ranking Fasken noncopyright Photo-SAN

Fasken Martineau Toronto lawyer Gerald L Ranking knowingly used a phoney, non-existent ‘corporate client’ to commit fraud upon Canadian courts. Where did the million dollars go?  Why didn’t Ranking submit costs to the Supreme Court of Canada?

In context, the Global Witness investigation is nothing less than an indictment of the legal profession – including of former lawyers who are now called ‘judges’. If I belonged to a profession where 25% of my colleagues were shown to be corrupt, I’d be embarrassed, upset and determined to clean up the profession – and I don’t mean just polishing the profession’s image by making excuses.

Dirty money is dirty money, whether taken by corrupt Lawyers or corrupt Police

Donald Best from an organized crime squad photo, mid-1980's

Toronto Police Sergeant Donald Best. From an organized crime squad photo, mid-1980’s

In 1985 when I was a Toronto Police officer working undercover in 52 Division, my squad mates and I received stacks of cash as bribes from organized crime. Yes, we took the cash and much more… but please read on!

Gang members offered us hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus fabulous vacations (and stunningly gorgeous women), for doing nothing more than looking the other way and not raiding certain gambling and prostitution establishments in the heart of downtown Toronto. An extra hundred thousand dollars a year per man (tax free cash) was quite a sum in 1985.

Were we tempted? Not even for an instant.

We were police officers; steadfast, independent agents of Her Majesty and Canada, and proud of it. So we organized a sting that went on far longer and far deeper than any of us ever imagined was possible.

We took the bribes under controlled conditions and found ourselves diving deep into the corrupt relationships between organized crime, lawyers, former lawyers, politicians, public officials and law enforcement. (And no… we didn’t take the offered women. We brought in female undercover officers to pose as our squad ‘groupies’. That story deserves its own book.)

Chief Jack Marks decided to keep the squad a secret.

Chief Jack Marks decided to keep the squad a secret.

While working directly for Chief Jack Marks and under the supervision of the senior Crown Attorney, three of us pretended to be corrupt. Chief Marks did not inform Internal Affairs of our operation. Going after organized crime, corrupt cops and public officials can get a little exciting if too many people know. Chief Marks later took some heavy criticism from other senior officers for not trusting Internal Affairs, but as events worked out, the Chief made the correct decision.

Arresting fellow Police Officers

For almost a year we took the cash bribes (all properly documented via hidden video and voice recorders) and at the end we arrested gang members, a few public officials and sadly, two of our fellow police officers – including an officer who at one time had been assigned as my partner.

But we did arrest our fellow police officers. We (the four of us: K, H, J and myself) held them accountable and in so doing upheld the integrity of the Toronto Police and Canadian law enforcement.

On a Saturday morning we executed a Criminal Code search warrant at the home of my former police partner.

It took me days to put the warrant application together, and it was one of the toughest things I have ever had to do. But it was my duty.

When we knocked on the door and entered my former partner’s home, his children were watching cartoons in their pajamas. His poor wife was crying and kept saying to him, “What’s happening? Tell me why they are here. What’s happening? What have you done?” Poor woman.

We arrested him, searched the home and found evidence corroborating that he had stolen a police issue bulletproof vest from one of his fellow officers, and given it to a member of organized crime. Such a betrayal should be dealt with most severely – and it was.

That same month we executed another search warrant at the home of a member of organized crime and discovered on his bedroom table, a confidential Toronto Police Intelligence Bureau surveillance report filed only days previously. In 1985, organized crime was receiving copies of Toronto Police Intelligence Bureau surveillance reports.

We dealt with that too. Most severely.

Chief Marks made the correct decision in ensuring that our undercover operations were known to only a select few. We, and Chief Marks, knew that professional standards had to be maintained, or the public trust would evaporate.

Unfortunately, most lawyers and former lawyers (called ‘judges’) don’t have the will to uphold the proclaimed standards of their profession. That fact very much explains everything that is going wrong with the legal profession today.

Lawyers and Judges do not generally hold lawyers accountable even for proven wrongdoing.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, we have about 90,000 lawyers in Canada while the USA has about 450,000 give or take. Extrapolating the Global Witness ‘twenty-five percent’ statistic means that about 135,000 North American lawyers are ready to assist to transfer and hide suspect monies for a stranger.

That is disgusting.

The American Bar Association responded to the Global Witness investigation, the 60 Minutes story ‘Anonymous Inc.‘ that broke the news, the New York Times story and the scandalous involvement of former ABA President Jim Silkenat with the expected “The association is committed to the elimination of money laundering and has worked diligently with federal and state governments…” BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.

To my knowledge the ABA did not discipline or expel any of the lawyers exposed by the Global Witness investigation. Enough said.

Public Domain photos of Lawyer Gerald Ranking (L) and secretary Jeannine Ouellette (R)

Public Domain photos of Lawyer Gerald Ranking (L) and secretary Jeannine Ouellette (R)

More of the same in Canada

In Canada, the evidence and circumstances of my own case show both the ease with which lawyers are willing to break the law to serve as agents in the architecture of corruption, and how the Judiciary and Ontario’s Law Society of Upper Canada are willing to ignore and whitewash proven wrongdoing by senior partners of Canada’s largest legal firms.

‘The Club’ with its special privileges is doing well in Ontario.

Judges, the Law Society of Upper Canada, lawyers and Fasken Martineau senior partners know that Toronto lawyer Gerald Lancaster Ranking (‘Gerry Ranking’) used a phoney, non-existent client to commit fraud upon the courts. The evidence is irrefutable.

There is also the matter of about a million dollars that Mr. Ranking took into his trust account, to be paid to a phoney company that is proven not to exist. That should be serious business, but there are rules for ordinary citizens and then there are rules for senior lawyers with Canada’s largest law firms who are members of ‘The Club’.

Let me make it quite clear: Lawyer Gerald Ranking of the large Canadian law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, knowingly lied to the Superior Court of Ontario, the Appeal Court of Ontario and to the Supreme Court of Canada. Starting in 2007, Ranking falsely claimed that his purported client ‘Pricewaterhouse Coopers East Caribbean Firm’ was a business legitimately registered with the Government of Barbados. That was a lie in 2007, and it continues to be a lie.

Ranking and his witness maintained that lie for years, even in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary. In January of 2013, Ranking even sought to reinforce the lie by fraudulently reading into the court record deliberately false renditions of Barbados government records. The evidence to support all this is filed with the courts, and is available here at

Fasken Martineau DuMoulin lawyer Gerald Ranking is a liar. His actions were unethical and illegal. He lied to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Further… there is the question of the million dollars paid into Ranking’s trust account for a non-existent, fraudulent client that could not have possibly had a bank account.

And the money ended up where?

Clear enough? Good!

Where did the million dollars end up?

During the Nelson Barbados Group Ltd. civil case, about a million dollars in costs was paid to Fasken and Ranking in trust for their fraudulent non-existent ‘client’. So where did Faskens and Ranking transfer the money received ‘in trust’ for their phoney client?

The one thing we do know about where the money went is that it was never deposited into any bank account in the name ‘PricewaterhouseCoopers East Caribbean Firm’ as the court ordered.

The use of a fraudulent, non-existant business entity for financial transactions is a recognized badge of fraud and money-laundering.

How did Fasken and Ranking work around the currency laws of Barbados, applicable income tax laws and other legal problems that must have arisen when transferring a million dollars the court ordered paid to a non-existent, phoney, fraudulent non-entity?

Once again, the judiciary, Ranking’s fellow lawyers and the Law Society of Upper Canada are fully aware of all of the above.

But… members of The Club are protected, and Gerald Ranking is obviously a member.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the Global Witness undercover video featured at the top of this article.

Here’s what corrupt New York lawyer Mark Koplik had to say about The Club…

“They don’t send the lawyers to jail because we run the country”

“We’re still members of a privileged class in this country.”

Mark Koplik, Henderson & Koplik LLP, New York

 * Photo of Toronto Chief of Police Jack Marks courtesy of the Toronto Star Newspaper.