This could involve Australian dollars or a foreign currency. This requirement is in line with the FATF standards which recommend that countries implement licensing or registration schemes for the sector. These new measures include requiring remittance providers to undergo a more rigorous registration process and enable the AUSTRAC CEO to refuse, suspend, cancel or impose conditions on registration.
Joint Task Force Gordian was established in May to investigate the key structures and networks used by organised crime to finance criminal enterprises, launder the proceeds of crime and evade tax. The task force sought to disrupt criminal networks by targeting accountants, money remitters and the financial service providers assisting them to commit criminal offences. As a result, 16 criminal syndicates were disrupted and 73 people charged with money laundering and serious drug offences.
Three targets of the task force were sentenced in for imprisonment of up to 10 years for money laundering and trafficking narcotics. Gambling at Australian gaming venues — casinos, pubs, clubs, racing and sports betting facilities — is a traditional channel for the placement moving, dispersing or disguising funds and layering reinvesting funds phases of the money laundering cycle.
Money launderers exploit this high cash turnover and the large volume of transactions to camouflage illegitimate transactions among legitimate gambling activity. In addition to gambling, many casinos and gaming facilities offer services similar to financial institutions. This includes accounts, foreign exchange, money changing, electronic funds transfers, cheque issuing, and safety deposit boxes. These additional services are also vulnerable to abuse for money laundering purposes.
Money laundering cases in the gaming sector generally involve cash proceeds from drug trafficking and fraud committed by domestic and international organised crime groups. These designated services are recognised as vulnerable to abuse by criminals for money laundering purposes. Criminals purchase high-value goods as a way of reinvesting or concealing criminal proceeds and assets. Items may be bought for day-to-day use, to store and hide value, or to transfer value to a third party. Buying goods such as jewellery, boats, real estate, artwork, antiques, precious metals and stones is a common money laundering method, particularly for the placement introducing illegal funds into the formal financial system and integration reinvesting funds stages of money laundering.
Many of these high-value goods are attractive to money launderers because they are easy to conceal and transport across borders and convert back into legitimate funds. Australian-based organised crime groups use this form of money laundering to hide value both in Australia and overseas.
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Overseas-based crime groups also use this method to conceal assets e. Trade in high-value goods may also be used to exchange value without the need for cash or other payment methods. Recent high profile asset confiscation cases in Australia show the breadth of criminal investment in high-value goods and the scale of criminal wealth that can be laundered and invested this way. Assets included cash, houses, boats, motor vehicles, motorcycles and other items. It is difficult to distinguish commonplace legitimate consumer and commercial activity from criminal spending on luxury items and laundering criminal funds by investing in assets.
There is a vast volume of legitimate transactions involving these items and few, if any, financial indicators to signal suspicious activity. Confiscating the assets derived from crime is a key tool for countering organised crime. In , Commonwealth legislation was strengthened with the introduction of a non-conviction based regime and more recently with the addition of unexplained wealth laws Proceeds of Crime Act Measures available under the Proceeds of Crime Act include:. The unexplained wealth laws, introduced in , place the onus of proof on the individual whose wealth is in dispute, and require that person to attend court and show that their wealth was obtained legitimately.
If a person is unable to do so, the court may order the person to pay the amount of their wealth that they cannot demonstrate was legitimately obtained to the Commonwealth.
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In a new multi-agency Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce was established to provide a more coordinated and integrated approach to identifying and removing the profits derived from organised criminal activity. The funds from confiscated assets are deposited into the Confiscated Assets Account and can be used to benefit the community through crime prevention, intervention or diversion programs or other law enforcement initiatives.
Organised crime groups are increasingly using networks of businesses, companies, partnerships and trusts to support criminal activity and launder illicit funds. In this context, it is becoming more common for organised crime to engage a range of professionals to provide advice, establish and, in some cases, administer these complex structures which disguise illicit money flows. Some professionals are exploited by criminals, while others are criminal entities in their own right. Australian-based and overseas-based crime groups use professionals such as lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and real estate agents, to help undertake transactions to:.
Examples of these requests include:. Project Wickenby investigations into abuse of overseas low taxing jurisdictions found significant use of professional advisers to form trusts and complex corporate and financial structures for large-scale tax fraud and money laundering activity see the following case study. Professional facilitators have also been identified as helping to channel income to preferential tax regimes and exploit business structures.
Between and , the suspects allegedly used an offshore scheme promoted by an overseas accounting firm to avoid paying the tax:. Two of the suspects were found guilty of conspiring to dishonestly cause a loss to the Commonwealth and in sentenced to six-and-a-half years imprisonment. Criminals use multi-layered legal entity structures in the layering moving, dispersing or disguising funds and integration reinvesting funds stages of the money laundering cycle. Legal entity structures such as companies, partnerships and trusts are used to:.
The resulting maze of structures and international transactions hinders investigations into actual ownership of funds and presents challenges for banks and other financial institutions in identifying the ultimate beneficiary and detecting suspicious activity. Cash intensive businesses are businesses which have a high volume of legitimate cash flows.
Examples of such businesses can often be found in the restaurant, hotel, pub and club, taxi, building and construction, entertainment, convenience store and motor vehicle retail sectors. Cash intensive businesses are used in all stages of the money laundering cycle.
Money laundering in Australia | AUSTRAC
Law enforcement operations have identified cash intensive businesses being used to launder proceeds from a range of serious and organised crime activity including drug and tobacco offences, tax evasion, tax and welfare fraud and illegal gambling. Electronic payment systems and new payment methods have become an integral part of the globalised economy. Their dynamic nature and rapid technology developments offer opportunities for criminals to exploit these systems for money laundering purposes.
While these systems differ in many ways, they can both provide anonymity and do not require face-to-face business relationships and transactions. Smuggling and couriering cash and BNIs across borders requires less sophisticated planning and technical skill compared to other money laundering methodologies. Clandestine movement of cash and other valuable items across borders is a common money laundering method around the world.
Criminals exploit the high volume of passenger, cargo and mail movements into and out of Australia. They may enlist cash couriers who physically transport cash in person or in their luggage. Couriers may be directly involved in the underlying crime or may be third parties recruited specifically to move money offshore. There have been fewer cases involving cash couriering compared to many other money laundering methodologies found in Australia. However, a prominent case involving airline crew members highlights the potential scale of cash couriering involving organised syndicates and trusted insiders.
The syndicate used corrupt baggage handlers to smuggle drugs through the airport. Trade-based money laundering is a well-established channel overseas, commonly associated with laundering of drug cartel profits and getting around foreign exchange restrictions. Money laundering through the trade system is used to legitimise, conceal, transfer and convert the instruments or the proceeds of crime into less conspicuous assets, commodities or services. Such cases are limited in Australia.
How effective are suspicious transaction reporting systems?
The degree of complexity and the risk of detection from trade-based money laundering may make more established money laundering channels more attractive to criminals in Australia. However, continued growth in trade and the involvement of overseas-based crime groups in Australia suggests that trade-based money laundering could emerge as a significant money laundering channel in future. International trends also suggest that tighter regulatory measures in the financial system may displace money laundering to other systems and methodologies, such as international trade and trade financing.
The Australian financial system offers a diverse and complex suite of investment vehicles across domestic and international markets. The complexity of investment vehicles, markets and products makes it difficult to assess the actual level of money laundering activity involved. Beneficial owners can hide behind complex trust or corporate structures. In addition, new investment products, services and technologies may offer increasingly attractive options for money laundering in the future.
It is difficult for the investment industry and financial sector to detect and report to authorities the integration of criminal wealth in investment vehicles. This is because the criminal wealth is likely to have already been laundered through placement or layering in other parts of the economy, before it is integrated into investment markets.
In authorities began investigating a person suspected of illegally raising investment funds and operating an unregistered managed investment scheme. The funds were then transferred back to Australia, where they were used for gambling and to purchase luxury vehicles and real estate.
Related World Money Laundering Report Volume 10 Number 3
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