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The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) is Australia's anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) regulator and specialist financial intelligence unit (FIU).

AUSTRAC's purpose is to protect the integrity of Australia's financial system and contribute to the administration of justice through its expertise in countering money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

AUSTRAC 's role

As Australia's AML/CTF regulator, AUSTRAC oversees industry's compliance with the requirements of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act) and the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (FTR Act). Where AUSTRAC detects cases of serious non-compliance with the AML/CTF Act or FTR Act, it may take appropriate and measured enforcement action to secure a regulated entity's compliance.

Entities regulated under the AML/CTF Act include financial services providers, bullion dealers, designated remittance service providers, the gambling industry and other reporting entities which provide 'designated services' as outlined in section 6 of the AML/CTF Act. AUSTRAC also regulates 'cash dealers', as defined in the FTR Act.

As Australia's FIU, AUSTRAC analyses the financial transaction reports submitted by industry and disseminates financial intelligence to its partner agencies to assist them in their investigations.

Working with partner agencies to combat money laundering and terrorism financing

AUSTRAC's partner agencies include Australian Government law enforcement, national and border security, revenue, regulatory and human services agencies, as well as state and territory law enforcement and revenue agencies. AUSTRAC also works closely with its international counterparts to contribute to global AML/CTF efforts.

AUSTRAC participates in a number of cross-agency task forces and operations. During 2013–14 these included:

  • Project Wickenby, led by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which targets internationally promoted tax evasion schemes
  • Eligo National Task Force, an Australian Crime Commission (ACC)-led task force to address criminal vulnerabilities within the remittance sector
  • Taskforce Trident, a joint agency taskforce that was established to address serious and organised criminal activities relating to the maritime environment across Victoria
  • Taskforce Galilee, an ACC-led task force investigating serious and organised investment fraud
  • Project Tricord and Operation Polo, targeting organised crime syndicates operating in Western Australia
  • Taskforce Attero, a national task force coordinated by the ACC targeting the Rebels outlaw motorcycle gang
  • the Australian Federal Police (AFP)-hosted Terrorism Financing Investigations Unit and Criminal Asset Confiscation Task Force
  • border security activities, including the Border Management Group of the Customs and Border Protection Service, the National Border Targeting Centre, and various multiagency waterfront task forces

Refer to the section 'AUSTRAC's work with multi-agency task forces' for examples of AUSTRAC's contribution to Project Wickenby and the Eligo National Task Force.

AUSTRAC supports partner agencies through the analysis and dissemination of financial intelligence. AUSTRAC maintains a network of AUSTRAC senior liaison officers (ASLOs), who promote the effective and efficient use of AUSTRAC information and intelligence by partner agencies.

ASLOs are outposted to partner agencies in most capital cities, where they build and maintain relationships with partner agency personnel and provide on-site support, including financial intelligence analysis and training in using the AUSTRAC database. As at 1 December 2014, there are 20 ASLOs supporting various partner agencies.

AUSTRAC's production and dissemination of intelligence reports is informed by key partner agency and whole-of-government priorities. AUSTRAC produced 752 individual intelligence reports in 2013–14 and made 1,314 disseminations to partner agencies. As well as being disseminated to relevant partner agencies, these intelligence reports contribute to the repository of financial intelligence held by AUSTRAC. In addition, AUSTRAC disseminates a range of information and reports to partner agency staff, ranging from individual suspicious matter reports through to operational intelligence products. These products contributed to over 260 significant investigations undertaken by AUSTRAC's partner agencies as well as $358 million in tax assessments raised by the ATO.

AUSTRAC also undertakes research and produces strategic intelligence on money laundering and terrorism financing (ML/TF) risks threats and methods to inform industry and government partner agencies. AUSTRAC disseminates some of its intelligence products to its counterpart FIUs overseas.

In September, AUSTRAC released a public report, Terrorism financing in Australia 2014, to raise public and industry awareness of key Australian terrorism financing risks and methods. This has assisted reporting entities to detect suspicious matters that could relate to terrorism financing and to harden measures to deter terrorism financing through Australia's financial system. The report is based on AUSTRAC's classified National risk assessment on terrorism financing 2014, which was prepared in close collaboration with a number of other agencies, particularly the AFP.

Working with industry

Each year AUSTRAC receives millions of financial transaction reports and reports of suspicious matters from its regulated entities. The agency analyses this transaction data to identify potential money laundering, terrorism financing and other serious crime.

AUSTRAC then shares its financial intelligence with a wide range of domestic partner agencies and international counterparts for use in their criminal investigations and other operations. Financial transaction data assists authorities to identify relationships between individuals and networks, the movement of funds and patterns of financial activity.

Reporting by industry provides key intelligence to support law enforcement investigations and how AUSTRAC provides industry with information on criminal trends and methods, including through public reports such as this one.

This report contains a range of case studies detailing investigations and operations undertaken by AUSTRAC's partner agencies. The case studies demonstrate the intelligence value of the transaction and suspicious matter reports submitted to AUSTRAC by reporting entities.

AUSTRAC publishes typologies reports to inform industry and the wider community about the various methods criminals use to conceal, launder or move illicit funds and to commit financial or other crimes. This information assists industry to strengthen its measures to detect money laundering activity and protect both businesses and customers from criminal activity.

Regulated entities should use this report to:

  • determine what ML/TF vulnerabilities are most relevant to their organisation
  • inform the AML/CTF guidance material and training programs they provide to staff to raise awareness of ML/TF issues within the organisation
  • inform their ML/TF risk assessments
  • assist them in identifying and investigating unusual customer activity. Entities should use the risk 'indicators' in this report as a guide when describing unusual behaviour in suspicious matter reports
  • add new and refine the existing detection scenarios and rules they use in their transaction monitoring programs
  • highlight the benefits of maintaining a robust AML/CTF regime within their organisation.

Summary of case studies

The 20 case studies in this report feature partner agency investigations and operations to which AUSTRAC information has contributed. They detail successes achieved through AUSTRAC and its government partner agencies working together and sharing information about criminal activities.

The cases also highlight the value of industry's reporting of financial transactions and suspicious matters to AUSTRAC. They demonstrate how following the money trail is an effective way of detecting the activities of organised crime networks and the value of a whole-of-government approach to combating organised crime.

The case studies featured within this report have been sanitised and approved by our partner agencies for public release. AUSTRAC is unable to provide further information on individual case studies within this report.

The sanitised case studies represent only a small sample of all partner agency investigations that use AUSTRAC information.

Case study Summary
Case 1

AUSTRAC information assisted an investigation which led to the arrest of a suspect who used digital currency to import and sell illicit drugs through a black market website.

The suspect was sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment and fined AUD1,000 for possessing controlled weapons.

Case 2

AUSTRAC information assisted law enforcement with an investigation into drug trafficking.

The suspect was charged with attempting to traffic a controlled drug and sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment.

Case 3

AUSTRAC information contributed to a law enforcement investigation into a syndicate involved in the trafficking of women from Thailand to Australia. The suspect pleaded guilty to conducting a business involving sexual servitude and making a false statement to an immigration official.

The suspect was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment.

Case 4

A joint investigation between Australian and Indonesian authorities identified two Australian suspects (a father and son) who were facilitating a people smuggling venture. AUSTRAC analysis of financial transaction reports assisted the investigation. Authorities restrained approximately AUD60,000 as the proceeds of crime.

The main suspect was sentenced to a suspended nine-month jail sentence.

Case 5

Suspicious matter reports submitted to AUSTRAC led to the arrest of an international fugitive wanted for cybercrime and fraud offences. The suspect pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and computer fraud.

The suspect was sentenced to five years and 10 months imprisonment and also agreed to assist United States authorities to recover the stolen funds.

Case 6

An Australian law enforcement agency conducted an investigation into a suspect believed to be involved in laundering money. AUSTRAC information linked the suspect to multiple companies and structured cash deposits. The suspect was charged with providing incomplete information in relation to a financial transaction.

The suspect pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine months imprisonment and received a two-year good behaviour bond.

Case 7

A law enforcement agency identified a suspect believed to be working as a cash courier for a suspected money laundering syndicate. AUSTRAC data revealed that the suspect and additional cash couriers were laundering millions of dollars internationally for the syndicate.

Three suspects were arrested and received sentences ranging from 11 months imprisonment, a 12-month intensive corrections order and a 12-month good behaviour bond. Authorities also seized AUD543,000 cash.

Case 8

AUSTRAC information assisted authorities with an investigation which disrupted an international people smuggling operation, resulting in the arrest of two Australia-based facilitators.

The two suspects received sentences of five years imprisonment and eleven-and-a-half years imprisonment respectively.

Case 9

A suspicious matter report contributed significantly to a law enforcement operation which dismantled an international drug importation syndicate operating in Australia.

Authorities used AUSTRAC information to identify suspects, establish links between syndicate members, support existing intelligence and identify financial transactions of interest.

Two suspects were convicted of attempting to possess commercial quantities of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs. One was sentenced to eight years and six months imprisonment, the other was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment.

Case 10

AUSTRAC information assisted authorities to investigate a tax evasion scheme promoted and facilitated by an accountant in Australia.  The scheme used false invoices and loans to avoid tax. Authorities identified that a client of the accountant defrauded the Commonwealth of AUD2 million over a five-and-a-half year period.

The accountant was sentenced to six years imprisonment. The accountant's clients were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to four years.

Case 11

AUSTRAC information assisted authorities to identify offshore bank accounts and international funds transfers in relation to a complex tax avoidance scheme involving funds transfers between Australia, Samoa and New Zealand.  The scheme involved the use of an offshore superannuation fund and a loan arrangement to avoid tax.

Authorities ultimately issued amended tax assessments to the individuals involved, resulting in approximately AUD2 million in additional tax, penalties and interest.

Case 12

Suspicious matters reports assisted law enforcement with an investigation into a sophisticated drug importation criminal syndicate. AUSTRAC information assisted authorities to identify the scale of the syndicate's financial activity.

A member of the syndicate was charged with attempting to import a marketable quantity of border-controlled drugs and precursors. He was sentenced to a maximum of six years and eight months imprisonment.

Case 13

AUSTRAC information was used to verify the identities of an organised crime syndicate undertaking credit card fraud.  A number of suspicious matter reports also assisted authorities to unravel the group's illicit financial activities.

Two members of the syndicate were charged with fraud-related offences. One was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment and the other to 12 months imprisonment.

Case 14

AUSTRAC information helped initiate an investigation that resulted in the arrest of three suspects and the seizure of approximately 15 kilograms of cannabis. Authorities restrained a number of assets, including AUD100,000 cash suspected to be the proceeds of crime, a property and numerous vehicles.

One suspect was sentenced to four years and 10 months imprisonment. The other suspect received a suspended sentence of two years and nine months imprisonment.

Case 15

Law enforcement identified a suspect who appeared to be importing components used to build or modify a prohibited type of assault rifle. Authorities used AUSTRAC information to identify the suspect's online payment account and other associated financial activity.

The suspect was arrested and charged with various firearms offences.

Case 16

AUSTRAC assisted an investigation which disrupted a global crime syndicate involved in money laundering and the importation of more than 30 kilograms of methamphetamine into Australia.

Three suspects were arrested and charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.

Case 17

AUSTRAC information was instrumental in identifying an Australian victim who sent approximately AUD2 million to a highly organised international crime syndicate committing 'advance fee' fraud.

Case 18

Multiple law enforcement agencies worked together to dismantle a major drug syndicate operating in Australia and Vietnam. The investigation uncovered one of the most elaborate methamphetamine operations in Victoria's history and led to the arrest of eight suspects.

AUSTRAC information detailed international funds transfers undertaken by the syndicate.

Case 19

AUSTRAC provided financial intelligence to assist law enforcement with their investigation into a remitter suspected of laundering illicit funds for crime syndicates.

AUSTRAC analysis identified additional entities, bank accounts and telephone numbers associated with the remitter. The remittance company director was charged and pleaded guilty to dealing with money reasonably suspected to be the proceeds of crime. He was sentenced to three months imprisonment and given an 18-month good behaviour bond.

Case 20

A law enforcement agency conducted an investigation into a suspect believed to be part of an international money laundering scheme. AUSTRAC information revealed the syndicate's financial activities and assisted authorities to identify the suspect.

The suspect was charged with dealing with property reasonably suspected of being the proceeds of crime and received a 12-month good behaviour bond.

Last modified: 17/08/2015 10:38