News National Suburban money dealers targeted by AUSTRAC for funding criminals and human traffickers

Suburban money dealers targeted by AUSTRAC for funding criminals and human traffickers

Australian Transaction Reports & Analysis Centre chief executive Nicole Rose, right, pictured with minister of home affairs, immigration, and border control Peter Dutton. Photo: Getty
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Australia’s anti-money laundering regulator has launched a blitz on unregistered money transfer dealers who risk being exploited by sophisticated criminal organisations.

The financial intelligence agency says the unregistered business, while often unwittingly supporting crime, expose themselves to human trafficking, child exploitation, illegal firearms sales and drug networks

Australian Transaction Reports & Analysis Centre chief executive Nicole Rose says small home-based transfer operators can be exposed to human trafficking, child exploitation, illegal firearms sales and drug networks.

Ms Rose told ABC’s AM program that unregistered money transfer dealers risk being used as havens for criminals to move money to fund their criminal enterprises.

“People might legitimately be asking them to send money back to their families but not knowing those companies are involved with criminal enterprises or money laundering,” Ms Rose said.

“It’s the dealers who are not registered with us that we’re concerned about, that they’ll be targeted for things like terrorism funding or laundering money.

“Dealers who are providing an unregistered service must stop now. They are required to put in place appropriate safeguards to harden and protect themselves against criminals who try to launder their dirty money.”

Over the past year, registered individuals and businesses reported $60 billion to AUSTRAC from 17.3 million transactions, with some legitimately assisting Australians to send money to families and friends overseas.

As part of the crackdown on money transfer dealers, AUSTRAC has launched a community campaign and will visit communities and businesses to raise awareness to the risks and potential penalties.

Ms Rose said there would be public meetings in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane between September and December highlighting the risks of unauthorised money dealers.

The financial crime regulator fined Commonwealth Bank $700 million last year after evidence that anti-money laundering laws had been breached on 53,700 occasions.

The 2017 revelations contributed to pressure for the banking Royal Commission.

Ms Rose said there has been a 70 per cent increase in self-reporting of potential anti-money laundering law breaches since the Commonwealth Bank scandal emerged.

“There’s been a great deal more self-disclosure and they’re being very upfront about sharing those failures with us,” Ms Rose said.

“We will have more enforcement action in the next six months. Whether that’s warnings or civil penalties, there will appropriate action.”

Ms Rose confirmed that AUSTRAC is investigating allegations by 60 Minutes and Nine Newspapers about money laundering and criminal associations at Crown Resorts, the operation of Crown casinos.

“AUSTRAC has been embedded with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission looking at unexplained wealth and a range of issues raised around casinos and we’ll continue to act on any information that’s provided,” Ms Rose said.

Crown, Australia’s biggest casino operator, has been linked to organised crime, money laundering and fast-tracked visas for big spenders. So where were the gambling regulators? asks Charles Livingstone.

However, Ms Rose said she had not seen any evidence that Crown has not complied with anti-money laundering laws.

“The big casinos are very good at complying with anti-money laundering and counter terror financing laws and they put a great deal of effort into ensuring that they do.”

AUSTRAC is currently undertaking a risk assessment of “junket” tours to attract high-rollers to casinos with the outcome of investigations to be presented to casino operators early next year.