Latest News from AUSTRAC
October 24, 2020
Keep on top of the latest advisories and guidances from Australia’s financial intelligence unit (FIU) AUSTRAC. This blog will update with any new information from the regulator as it becomes available.
Oct 14, 2020 – AUSTRAC to Replace Reporting System
Speaking at an industry event, the regulator is said to have received funding to replace its 20-year-old reporting system to something more adept and user-friendly. The national manager of regulatory operations also outlined the priorities for the organization for the next 12 to 18 months.
According to Dr. Nathan Newman, transaction reporting, risk management and know-your-customer requirements would remain key areas of focus. It is also expected that more enforcement actions will be coming from the regulator.
During the session, attendees were polled about their priorities for 2021. Thirty-five percent of attendees said improving know-your-customer (KYC) capabilities was a top priority. Another 30 per cent expected a drastic overhaul of their existing AML/CTF procedures in 2021.
Read the full story here.
Sept 24, 2020 – Westpac AML Settlement
Westpac and AUSTRAC have agreed to a $1.3 billion proposed penalty over Westpac’s breaches of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act). Westpac and AUSTRAC have agreed that the proposed penalty reflects the seriousness and magnitude of compliance failings by Westpac.
The Federal Court of Australia will now consider the proposed settlement and penalty. If the Federal Court determines the proposed penalty is appropriate, the penalty order made will represent the largest ever civil penalty in Australian history.
Westpac has admitted to contravening the AML/CTF Act on over 23 million occasions, exposing Australia’s financial system to criminal exploitation.
Read more here.
Jun 16, 2020 – FATF update on jurisdictions
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has published two recent updates on international AML/CTF compliance. Financial institutions should consider these when reviewing their obligations and risk-based policies, procedures, and practices.
- Jurisdictions identified by the FATF as high-risk jurisdictions: Iran and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
- Jurisdictions identified by the FATF for increased monitoring: Albania, The Bahamas, Barbados, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Jamaica, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama. Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe
- Jurisdictions no longer subject to monitoring: Iceland and Mongolia.
Read the full advisory here.
Apr 1, 2020: COVID-19
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, AUSTRAC and its law enforcement and national intelligence partners are monitoring and preparing for a shift in the risks that criminals pose to the financial system and the community.
Reporting entities are at the front line in combating financial crime. We encourage you to monitor for new and emerging threats and submit suspicious matter reports (SMRs) to AUSTRAC. Submitting high-quality, accurate and timely SMRs give us the best chance to detect, deter and disrupt criminal activity.
AUSTRAC warns of criminal exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the following areas:
- Targeting government assistance programs through fraudulent applications and phishing scams.
- Movements of large amounts of cash following the purchase or sale of illegal or stockpiled goods.
- Precious metals and gold bullion purchases that are out of character
- Exploitation of workers or trafficking of vulnerable persons in the community.
- Online child exploitation following restrictions on travel.
- Extremist views may rise either against members of the community or the government.
AUSTRAC asks you advise them of any significant changes you observe in relation to your financial crime and fraud monitoring. Please use this online form.
Mar 27, 2020: COVID Pandemic
The COVID-19 global pandemic is impacting all Australians and Australian businesses. AUSTRAC acknowledges that this is an unprecedented time for the superannuation sector.
The regulator said that it will work with financial institutions to facilitate a streamlined process for the making of payments under the Early Release of Superannuation Initiative in order to provide funds to people experiencing financial hardship promptly.
If you are an individual affected by COVID-19 enquiring about early access to your super, please contact the ATO directly. If you are an AUSTRAC reporting entity and have questions about your customer due diligence obligations, please contact us using the online form.
Jan 16, 2020: Campaign targeting illegal money transfer dealers
In December, AUSTRAC wrapped up our community campaign targeting illegal money transfer dealers, or unregistered remittance dealers. The campaign ran from August to November and focused on raising public awareness and educating communities about the risks they pose.
Unregistered money transfer dealers represent a real threat to Australian communities as they are at high risk of being targeted by criminals to launder money to fund their activities. They also negatively impact the reputation of registered money transfer providers who are trying to do the right thing.
AUSTRAC staff visited communities and registered businesses across Australia. We spoke about the threat that unregistered money transfer dealers pose and how people can anonymously report suspected unregistered dealers.
While the campaign has now finished, our work continues. Over the coming months, we will:
- Consolidate feedback and findings so we can determine the appropriate next steps
- Continue to assess reports of suspected unregistered remittance dealers submitted to AUSTRAC and take any action required
- Continue to support registered remittance providers through guidance resources and workshops throughout 2020 (details coming soon).
To learn more visit the campaign page.