Suspected of links with Mexican cartels | A popular Kahnawake casino closed until further notice

Kahnawake authorities on Monday ordered the closure of the popular Magic Palace casino, suspected by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) of being used to launder the dirty money of Mexican cartels. The establishment’s restaurant was also closed.

The lawyer for the owners of the establishment, Me Pierre L’Écuyer, confirmed to The Press that six Peacekeepers showed up on site Monday to close the casino and its restaurant, located on Route 132. He affirms that the company will contest this decision by the authorities of the Mohawk reserve.

Last October, The Press revealed that the RCMP suspected the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world, of laundering its dirty money through the Magic Palace.

Based on information from Mexico and Albania, the federal police identified an Albanian national and resident of the island of Montreal, Luftar Hysa, as being possibly involved in alleged money laundering operations on behalf of Mexican traffickers.

Officially, Luftar Hysa is not publicly listed as one of the owners of the Magic Palace. However, in an interview on Albanian television, he said he was the owner of the Mirela restaurant, located inside the casino.

“Everything indicates that Luftar Ali HYSA infiltrated the Kahnawake Indian Reservation to facilitate money laundering activities on behalf of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel, as well as for his own account,” claimed an investigator in a sworn denunciation filed at the Montreal courthouse and that The Press obtained.


Luftar Hysa, during an interview on Albanian television

The police officer claimed that the RCMP’s national criminal intelligence team considered Mr. Hysa to be an international money launderer established in Quebec. She noted that the businessman constantly travels back and forth between Montreal, Mexico and Europe.

It also revealed that Albanian authorities requested help from Canadian police to investigate Luftar Hysa. In their request, they mentioned that the businessman “was suspected of being part of a criminal group with activities of laundering the proceeds of crime in Mexico, Canada, Panama, Poland and Albania”.

Majority of profits to external investor

Mr. Hysa made headlines in Mexico in September 2022 for his alleged links to organized crime: two competing newspapers, El UniversalThen Mileniocited Mexican federal security sources as saying he struck a deal to launder money for the Sinaloa cartel.

Last December, the newspaper Excelsior however, cast doubt on these allegations by citing documents from the Attorney General of Mexico which stated that the Hysa family has not been the subject of any investigation in the country and that its members have no criminal record.

After the report was published in The Pressthe Kahnawake band council had hired an American firm specializing in gaming house examinations to conduct an audit of the Magic Palace.

“The outcome of this investigation revealed that there was an undisclosed beneficiary owner of the Magic Palace,” the council said in a statement released Tuesday.

This beneficiary is not a member of the Mohawk First Nation, exercises significant control over the casino and pockets the majority of its profits, the press release continues. According to the council, the presence of this owner from outside the community violates the terms of the agreement which allowed the operation of the casino on the territory.

“The objective of allowing [aux opérateurs d’appareils de loterie vidéos] “operating within the community has always been about ensuring that the community benefits,” continues the council, which speaks of a “strong message” sent to gaming companies to adhere to the highest ethical standards in order to to preserve the reputation of Kahnawake.

Speculation, says his lawyer

Me Pierre L’Écuyer confirmed Tuesday that Luftar Hysa is “an investor” in the establishment, which brings its partners the benefit of its experience in casino management in Mexico. But the lawyer affirms in the same breath that the two owners are indeed members of the Kahnawake community. They are Stan Myiow and Alfred Barry.

Me L’Écuyer also claims that the RCMP’s suspicions of Mr. Hysa, who is also his client, are based on erroneous information peddled in Mexico by competitors who wanted to eject Mr. Hysa from the casino industry.

“The person who made these allegations admitted that it was false,” he says.

The word would have passed from Mexico to Albania then to the Canadian police, the lawyer believes. “This is speculation, without any concrete data,” he said.

As for the amounts of suspicious transfers that the RCMP says they have traced, “the figures are wildly false,” he says.

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