Montreal Casino Shuts Down Amid Money Laundering Probe Linked to Sinaloa Cartel

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In a fresh and unexpected blow to the Montreal gaming scene, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) has abruptly paused the spinning of the slot machines and silenced the clamor of the poker tables at the Magic Palace Montreal. This abrupt cessation is a result of an ongoing investigation into alleged money laundering activities tied to its operation.

The stern-faced businessmen on Albanian television are not discussing stocks or the local economy; instead, it’s Luftar Hysa fervently denying his alleged associations with the infamous Sinaloa Cartel. This same Hysa, as confirmed by a legal representative for the beleaguered casino, has a stake in the glitzy halls of the Magic Palace Montreal.

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Located in the proud Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, just a stone’s throw across the river from the vibrant city of Montreal, Canada, the besieged casino is vowing not to go quietly into the night, revealing plans to contest the decision that brought its gaming operation to a halt.

The normally bustling venue was plunged into stillness on a recent Monday as tribal police, in an air ripe with tension, escorted startled customers off the premises and sealed the entrance. The KGC, in a statement rife with gravity, explained the dramatic scene as being instigated by “numerous concerns arising out of investigations conducted over the past several months.”

With the issuance of this decisive order, the Magic Palace Montreal has been compelled to bring its gaming services to an abrupt halt, from the blinking lights of Electronic Gaming Devices to the fields of green felt on its Poker Room tables.

Back in October 2023, La Presse raised allegations that Hysa, originally hailing from Albania, was using the Magic Palace as a well-oiled machine to facilitate laundering for Mexican trafficking rings. Subsequent investigations have extended across three nations, threading together unsettling connections to the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, an organization ranked amongst the most ruthless drug-trafficking outfits in the world.

According to a declaration made under oath at the Montreal courthouse by an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), it appears that Hysa had established a stronghold within the Kahnawake Indian reservation to grease the wheels of money laundering, both for the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel and for personal enrichment.

Following allegations in October, Hysa was declared inappropriate for licensure as a critical figure. Responding to the scrutiny, the Magic Palace seemingly disengaged its ties with the oft-controversial businessman.

Further adding to the intrigue, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake brought in a US firm specializing in casino audits to peel back the layers and expose the truth. The investigation reportedly revealed an “undisclosed beneficiary owner of the Magic Palace,” who is not a member of the Mohawk First Nation but who held considerable sway over the casino and pocketed a hefty share of its profits—a violation of the terms under which the casino was allowed operation on the reservation, which mandates the benefit of the community.

Pierre L’Ecuyer, a law professional representing Magic Palace owners Barry Alfred and Stan Myiow, validated Hysa’s role as an investor in the establishment. However, L’Ecuyer contradicted RCMP’s claims about Hysa’s cartel ties as “false information,” pointing out to La Presse that Hysa had been exonerated from similar accusations from his casino enterprises in Mexico. He suggested that the allegations were the handiwork of business rivals eager to oust Hysa from the industry.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.