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17 February 2017: Greater transparency needed to halt money laundering



Australia needs to play its part in fighting corrupt individuals, criminals and terrorists laundering money through the global banking system.  Transparency International Australia (TI Australia) has said today we need more information made public about what our banks are doing to stop this illegal behavior.

Transparency International’s study, Top Secret: Countries keep financial crime fighting data to themselves, reveals a stark relationship between the countries which hosts the world’s biggest banks, and those that publish little data on anti-money laundering prevention and enforcement is published, or is if it is published it is out-of-date.

With Australia’s big 4 banks topping Australian companies in the Forbes list, there is room for improvement in how the country collects, discloses and acts on financial intelligence information.

The study highlights challenges for Australia’s key financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, including a lack of mutual assistance data and a high number of Suspicious Transaction Reports (over 64,000 received last year) this stands in sharp contrast with a very low number of criminal investigations (260) into money laundering activities and indicates, clearly there is some work to do.

TI Australia Chairman, the Hon Anthony Whealy QC “The Australian public needs evidence that action is being taken, not only to build trust in the institutions that hold our money, but also as a deterrent against crime. We urge that current Federal efforts to streamline and strengthen Australia’s anti-money laundering /counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) regime through public consultation and statutory review are expedited.”

Mr Whealy says “AUSTRAC states that anti-money laundering data is key to joining the dots and providing a complete financial intelligence picture, which begs the question of what happens to the incomplete financial picture.  We need to ask if Australia’s investigation processes are too reactive and how can we become more proactive?” Australia is rated as a medium risk in the latest Basel AML Index Report.

Globally, Transparency International recommends that countries publish anti-money laundering oversight and enforcement statistics on a yearly basis, in a single report or data file. The requirement to publish yearly anti-money laundering data should become a standard recommendation of international bodies including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the G20.  Transparency on this important aspect of financial market enforcement is only a first, but vital, step on the long road to cleansing the global financial system of dirty money.

One issue raised will be addressed by the release of Treasury’s public consultation paper on beneficial ownership transparency this week. “As the Top Secret report makes clear, we have a big gap in public beneficial ownership information” says Whealy. “A Public Register of Beneficial Ownership transparency is another positive step forward as momentum builds on Australia’s national integrity efforts. This is exactly the type of opportunity we will be discussing at our National Integrity 2017 conference next month”.

Australia’s beneficial ownership and company transparency efforts will be a key topic for debate at the National Integrity 2017 conference in Brisbane next month. Queensland’s Attorney General Hon Yvette D’Ath MP, ANZ’s Guy Boyd and BHP Billiton Foundation’s James Ensor are among the line up to discuss OGP commitments and avenues for government reform.

“This important conference, a joint initiative of Transparency International Australia and Griffith University, will map out a practical blueprint for restoring public trust in our democratic institutions. It will be an important collaboration between Government, business and civil society,” Mr Whealy affirmed.

 

Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.

Media contacts:

Hon. Anthony Whealy QC, TI Australia Chair:
0414 963 643

Greg Thompson TI Australia Board Member 0438 826 511






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