AUSTRAC releases two national risk assessments

The assessments aim to strengthen Australia’s defences against money laundering and terrorism financing

AUSTRAC releases two national risk assessments

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has released two national risk assessments on money laundering and terrorism financing, as part of the effort to strengthen the country’s fight against financial and serious crime.

The assessments, AUSTRAC said, provide a comprehensive understanding of the scale, sophistication, and threat of such activities in Australia.

“Crimes like money laundering and terrorism financing erode trust in Australia’s financial system and the security of the Australian population,” said Brendan Thomas (pictured above), AUSTRAC chief executive. “Criminals might be persistent, but so are we.”

AUSTRAC collaborated with the national intelligence community, law enforcement, regulatory agencies, industry, and international financial intelligence units to develop these assessments.

“We have drawn on insights and data from all these groups to capture a comprehensive picture of what is happening across our nation,” Thomas said.

The Money Laundering in Australia: National Risk Assessment revealed that despite new channels, launderers still prefer traditional methods using cash, banks, luxury goods, real estate, and casinos.

“We know that the value of the domestic Australian drug market is worth at least $12.4 billion per year,” Thomas said. “This money then needs to be laundered through the Australian economy, every single year.

“And that’s only one type of crime driven by Australian organised crime groups. The exploitation of digital currencies is increasing. This helps criminals move funds quickly, cheaply and with what they perceive as a degree of anonymity.”

The second assessment, Terrorism Financing in Australia: National Risk Assessment, found that retail banking, remittance, and cash exchanges remain the preferred methods to move funds, mostly to overseas terrorist organisations. Social media and crowdfunding platforms have also become integral to fundraising terrorist activities.

Thomas emphasised that the risk assessments would help businesses understand how criminals launder proceeds of crime or fund extremist violence.

“I encourage businesses to read them, understand how they might be exposed and ensure they have the necessary anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) measures in place,” he said.

The money laundering risk assessment also identified sectors highly vulnerable to criminal exploitation but not covered by the current AML/CTF framework.

“We know there are particular sectors that pose money laundering and terrorism financing risks and are consistently exploited – knowingly and unknowingly – by transnational, serious and organised crime groups to disguise and launder criminal wealth,” Thomas said.

The Australian government has proposed reforms to simplify the AML/CTF framework and extend it to higher-risk services, including those provided by lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents.

“These businesses are uniquely positioned to provide insights into suspicious behaviour through the services they provide,” Thomas said. “Reports from these businesses will help build a more complete picture of money laundering activities that assist law enforcement activities in combatting serious and organised crime from child sexual exploitation to scams.”

The new national risk assessments supplement AUSTRAC’s existing resources and guidance designed to support regulated businesses in understanding, identifying, and managing the particular money laundering and terrorism financing risks they face.

Want to be regularly updated with mortgage news and features? Get exclusive interviews, breaking news, and industry events in your inbox – subscribe to our FREE daily newsletter. You can also follow us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and LinkedIn.