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AUSTRAC: Australia's financial intelligence unit

AUSTRAC is Australia's specialist financial intelligence unit (FIU).

AUSTRAC's financial intelligence assists the investigation and prosecution of serious criminal activity, including money laundering, terrorism financing, organised crime and tax evasion.

AUSTRAC's work includes:

Intelligence monitoring and analysis

AUSTRAC analyses millions of financial transaction reports each year. The agency shares its financial intelligence with a wide range of domestic and international counterparts.  

AUSTRAC regulates the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) compliance of approximately 14,000 businesses in Australia (known as 'reporting entities'). Reporting entities are obliged to submit a range of financial transaction reports to AUSTRAC.

AUSTRAC analyses this financial transaction data using sophisticated modelling and predictive analysis tools to identify money laundering, terrorism financing and other serious crime.

Data matching with partner agencies

AUSTRAC matches its data with data held by selected partner agencies to help identify individuals under investigation. AUSTRAC uses a program protocol that describes the security safeguards in place to protect data within the agency's database.

Sharing financial intelligence

Following the trail of dirty money is a proven and effective means of combating crime.

AUSTRAC shares its financial intelligence with more than 40 Australian Government, state and territory partner agencies and dozens of overseas counterparts.

Each year AUSTRAC disseminates thousands of pieces of intelligence to its partners, including suspicious matter reports and detailed analysis reports, for use in their investigations and operations.

This financial intelligence contributes to hundreds of investigations by law enforcement, national security, revenue, border protection and other agencies. For example:

  • The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) uses AUSTRAC information to identify suspected tax avoidance, including abuse of overseas tax and secrecy havens. During 2013–14, AUSTRAC information contributed to 20,931 ATO cases resulting in $358.3 million in tax assessments raised.
  • The Department of Human Services' Centrelink program uses AUSTRAC information to support its compliance activity. AUSTRAC contributed intelligence to 321 Centrelink reviews in 2013–14, achieving total annualised savings of $5.7 million.
  • In 2013–14 AUSTRAC information contributed to 260 significant investigations undertaken by AUSTRAC's other law enforcement, intelligence, human services, regulatory and revenue partner agencies.

Educating industry about money laundering methods

Criminals are constantly adapting their methods. Australian businesses must remain alert to the evolving threat of money laundering and other financial crime.

AUSTRAC analyses current and emerging trends in money laundering and publishes its research to raise awareness of these threats among industry, government and the wider community.

Money laundering typologies

AUSTRAC's typologies and case studies reports examine emerging criminal typologies and include examples of customer 'red flags' that may indicate criminal behaviour.

AUSTRAC's 2014 typologies report includes 20 real-life case studies showing how authorities used financial intelligence to uncover serious crimes, including:

  • the use of a black market website and digital currencies for drug trafficking
  • a cash courier who transferred millions of dollars overseas for a money laundering syndicate
  • a people smuggling operation uncovered by a joint Australian-Indonesian investigation
  • an accountant's overseas tax evasion scheme which ultimately landed his clients in jail.

Australia's money laundering environment

AUSTRAC's Money laundering in Australia 2011 report presents a consolidated picture of Australia's money laundering environment, including:

  • common criminal methods
  • vulnerable sectors and professions
  • emerging threats
  • actions necessary to identify and prevent it.

Contributing to cross-agency task forces

Criminals do not respect national or international borders. Tackling serious and organised crime requires a coordinated response across government.

AUSTRAC is an important contributor to cross-agency government task forces designed to combat Australia's most serious criminal threats, including organised crime.

For example, AUSTRAC works with its Commonwealth, state and territory partners on:

AUSTRAC also contributes financial intelligence expertise to the:

Improving understanding of the financial enablers of terrorism

Countering terrorism is Australia's number one national security priority. As Australia's FIU, AUSTRAC's expertise is crucial in combating attempts to finance terrorism.

AUSTRAC has the unique capability to provide financial intelligence to assist Australia's law enforcement and intelligence communities to combat terrorism financing by:

  • preventing individuals who have left Australia to fight overseas from receiving financial support
  • identifying opportunities to disrupt attempts to undertake terrorism acts
  • monitoring financial activity relating to foreign conflict hotspots
  • identifying terrorism financing risk, including the misuse of reporting entities.

An AUSTRAC representative has been part of the Australian Federal Police's Terrorism Financing Investigations Unit since it began in 2010–11.

Strengthening the fight against terrorism financing

In September 2014 the Australian Government announced $20 million of funding for AUSTRAC to improve the detection and disruption of terrorism financing and enhance understanding of the financial enablers of terrorism.

The funding provides:

  • 18 intelligence analysts to support counter-terrorism investigations
  • a new capability for AUSTRAC to collect and transform financial data
  • capacity for AUSTRAC to capture additional information about funds transfers into and out of Australia.

Australia's terrorism financing environment

AUSTRAC published its Terrorism financing in Australia 2014 report to raise industry and community awareness of the risks of sending funds to high-risk destinations and recipients overseas.

The report outlines:

  • the channels used to raise and transfer funds
  • emerging risks and threats
  • indicators to help identify suspicious activity
  • legal and regulatory framework to help deter and detect terrorism financing.

More information

  • AUSTRAC's annual reports include detailed statistics on financial transaction reporting by industry and AUSTRAC's dissemination of financial intelligence to its partners.
  • The AUSTRAC compliance guide is a comprehensive guide to the AML/CTF obligations for reporting entities.
Last modified: 17/08/2015 10:38