Financial crime on the rise in Australia

Peter Terlato 19 October 2016

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Reports of suspicious activity have doubled in just two years.

Over the past few years there has been a significant rise in the reporting of suspicious matters and suspect transactions in reference to financial crime in Australia, according to the latest research.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Australia's anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator, revealed that in 2015/16 there were 78,846 suspicious matter reports (SMRs) and suspect transaction reports (SUSTRs) in reference to financial crime.

While this figure is slightly down on the previous year (see graph below), reporting levels are almost double what they were in 2012/13.

In 2015/16 partner agencies conducted around 906,000 online activities using AUSTRAC's database, equating to 5,000 each day, or 3.4 searches every minute.

There were 391 cases of suspected terrorism financing in 2015/16, up 6.5% year-on-year.

AUSTRAC information contributed to 3,990 Australian Taxation Office (ATO) cases and 287 human services cases, resulting in $152 million in debt collection and $8.3 million in welfare fraud savings.

It also led to the discovery of $130 million worth of liabilities by the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce.

The centre's overall contribution to tax and debt collections totals $2.8 billion over the past 10 years.

AUSTRAC identified various money laundering methodologies, which were referred to law enforcement agencies for compliance action.

This included the misuse of Australian companies by foreign nationals to launder funds in the construction industry through remitter networks, some with links to organised crime.

Launched in August 2015, AUSTRAC's online case studies hub now contains 66 cases and has received over 17,000 unique visits.

Scammers and fraudsters are prevalent in every area of finance, targeting the elderly, overseas immigrants and everyday taxpayers. Find out how to report a scam to the relevant authorities.

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