Amidst the tightest police security ever seen at RCMP District Headquarters in Victoria, police on Tuesday announced they had seized more than US $2.6 million in what Mounties describe as one of the largest seizures of laundered money in Canada.
RCMP Supt. Derek Simmonds, in charge of the federal Border Integrity program in B.C, said the money was fished out of Canadian waters near Sidney in the middle of the night last March after the pilot of a suspicious, fast-moving boat without running lights threw a suitcase of money into the water just as an RCMP patrol boat was about to intercept it.
After first recovering the suitcase, police arrested Jeffrey Melchior, 44, of Cowichan Lake, who is charged with possession of property obtained by crime and laundering proceeds of crime.
Simmonds said the seizure and arrest was the result of Melchior’s bad seamanship rather than intelligence they had collected.
He said the five-metre rigid-hull inflatable boat was just two nautical miles – six minutes – away from the U.S. border when police intercepted the vessel. Melchior was not armed and was the only man aboard.
Simmonds said the only reason the suitcase full of money didn’t sink was because police were only metres away when Melchior threw it overboard and police acted instantly to recover it.
If it hadn’t been for Melchior moving at high speed toward the international border on a route known for smugglers, the RCMP border integrity operations centre might have missed his boat.
Simmonds said the centre relayed the suspicious information to a RCMP marine patrol and it moved to cut Melchior off before he got to the border. There was no high-speed pursuit.
Simonds said moving curency or contraband in large sums like this is a common identifier for organized-crime activity.
Melchior, who is not in custody and was not previously known to police, is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Nov. 21 in Victoria.
Once the case is settled, Simmonds said the cash will be diverted into the federal government’s general revenues.