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AUSTRAC Reports Expose Money Laundering Risks in Australian Casinos

Posted on July 10, 2024 | 8:28 am
AUSTRAC-insights-Money-laundering-and-terrorism-financing-in-Australia

Australia’s efforts to combat financial and serious crime have gained momentum with the release of two national risk assessments on money laundering and terrorism financing by AUSTRAC. These comprehensive reports offer a detailed understanding of the scale, sophistication, and threats these illicit activities pose within the country.

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Persistent Threats to Financial Integrity

Money laundering is a critical enabler of nearly all criminal activities, allowing criminals to reinvest illicit profits into further unlawful acts. AUSTRAC CEO, Brendan Thomas, emphasized the severity of these crimes, stating, “Crimes like money laundering and terrorism financing erode trust in Australia’s financial system and the security of the Australian population. Criminals might be persistent, but so are we.”

AUSTRAC collaborated with the national intelligence community, law enforcement, regulatory agencies, industry stakeholders, and international financial intelligence units to develop these risk assessments. This collaborative effort ensured a comprehensive overview of the national landscape regarding these threats.

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Traditional Methods and New Challenges

The Money Laundering in Australia: National Risk Assessment report revealed that despite new channels, launderers continue to favor traditional methods such as cash, banks, luxury goods, real estate, and, notably, casinos. “We know, through the good work of our colleagues in the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, that the value of the domestic Australian drug market is worth at least $12.4 billion dollars per year,” said Mr. Thomas. This substantial sum needs to be laundered through the Australian economy annually, showcasing the ongoing challenge.

Additionally, the report highlighted the increasing use of digital currencies, which allow criminals to move funds quickly, cheaply, and with a perceived degree of anonymity.

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Terrorism Financing and Vulnerable Sectors

The second report, Terrorism Financing in Australia: National Risk Assessment, identified retail banking, remittance services, and cash exchanges as primary methods for moving illicit funds. These funds are typically directed to overseas terrorist organizations and affiliated groups. Social media and crowdfunding platforms have also become integral to raising funds for terrorist activities.

AUSTRAC’s risk assessments aim to help businesses understand the methods criminals use to launder money or fund extremist violence. Mr. Thomas urged enterprises to familiarize themselves with these reports to identify their exposure and implement necessary anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) measures.

The assessments also pinpoint sectors highly vulnerable to criminal exploitation but not covered by the current AML/CTF framework. These include professional services offered by lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents. The Australian Government has proposed reforms to simplify and extend the AML/CTF framework to these high-risk services.

Top casinos in Australia

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National and International Cooperation

“These businesses are uniquely positioned to provide insights into suspicious behavior through the services they offer. Reports from these businesses will help build a more complete picture of money laundering activities, aiding law enforcement in combating serious and organized crime from child sexual exploitation to scams,” explained Mr. Thomas.

The new national risk assessments supplement AUSTRAC’s existing resources and guidance designed to support regulated businesses. These tools help businesses understand, identify, and manage the specific money laundering and terrorism financing risks they face, ensuring compliance with their AML/CTF obligations.

On an international level, other countries like Singapore have conducted similar risk assessments, identifying casinos as vulnerable to AML/CTF threats. Measures such as lowering deposit thresholds requiring due diligence checks have been implemented to counter these risks.

Source:

Latest insights on Australia’s money laundering and terrorism financing risks key to taking the profit out of crime, austrac.gov.au, July 9, 2024.

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