AUSTRAC follows the Panama Papers’ money trail
The Federal Government’s financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, is part of a co-ordinated national response to the Panama Papers, being undertaken by Australian Government agencies dealing with financial crime.
AUSTRAC is working with key partner agencies within the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) to examine over 1000 Australian entities that have been identified in the leak of information from Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca. This joint work is designed to detect from these identified Australian entities those that may be involved in money laundering, revenue avoidance or other serious financial or organised crime.
Paul Jevtovic, CEO of AUSTRAC, said his agency has also been working closely with the private sector in Australia and financial intelligence units (FIUs) globally to generate and share financial intelligence arising from the Panama Papers.
“The Panama Papers serve as a global ‘wake-up call’ as to the magnitude and pervasiveness of those looking to hide illicit wealth and of course to avoid taxes—which can ultimately hurt the citizens of many countries,” Mr Jevtovic said.
“As we learn more about the methodologies used to launder illicit funds, we reflect on and adjust our financial surveillance capabilities to further safeguard the integrity of Australia’s financial system and the economy.”
AUSTRAC’s international capability has underpinned much of the work of SFCT partners, particularly by identifying suspicious cross-border movement of funds between Australia and other countries.
Its work has been critical in identifying professional facilitators, including accountants and lawyers, who have facilitated the creation of offshore structures and vehicles to conceal and move illicit wealth.
“Ultimately, we want to ensure that we close off these money laundering routes to organised crime and tax avoiders, but at the same time not impact on legitimate global business,” Mr Jevtovic said.
AUSTRAC provides actionable financial intelligence to a range of international and domestic partners.
In the 2015-16 financial year, AUSTRAC disseminated more than 78,000 suspicious matter reports (SMR’s) and suspect transaction reports (SUSTRs) to its partner agencies.
This intelligence directly contributed to almost 4,000 ATO cases, which resulted in an extra $152 million in income tax assessments and debt collection. In addition, AUSTRAC’s information has been used to support SFCT activities, with the taskforce raising $130 million in liabilities.
This brings AUSTRAC’s contribution to the recovery of tax totalling nearly $2.8 billion, the majority of which has been realised in the past five years.
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