AUSTRAC and the Fintel Alliance

The Fintel Alliance (the Alliance) is AUSTRAC’s public-private partnership that brings together government intelligence, law enforcement agencies and Australia’s largest financial institutions and businesses to combat serious and organised crime.

In its 2019-20 Performance Report, the Alliance outlines its major achievements including the combatting of new criminal threats related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

What work does the Alliance focus on?

The Alliance focuses on various priority themes and related matters that require a joint public-private approach, including:

 

Theme Types of matters
Crimes affecting the most vulnerable community members Children, the elderly and disabled members of the community.
Exploitation of government revenues National disability scheme, education, child and day care services, aged services, other government programs.
Networked and complex financial crime Criminals exploiting multiple businesses, e.g. money mules, account layering, tax evasion, phoenixing, black economy, trade-based money laundering.
Nationally significant task forces and campaigns Illicit drugs, transnational crime, firearms and support to other national efforts.
Responding to regional and community harms Localised crime, regional programs and collaborations with international partners.
Technology and sophistication Responding to the most complex money laundering efforts through innovative approaches to data and information.

 

Key achievements

Major achievements by the Alliance throughout the reporting period include:

  • Arresting offenders for serious crimes including money laundering, scams, trading of illicit tobacco, and importation of child-like sex dolls.
  • Raising $22 million of tax liabilities.
  • Hardening the Australian border to child-sex offenders resulting in 25 detections of child exploitation material, the arrest of ten individuals for child-related offending, and the rescue of children from harm.
  • Protecting Australians from criminal networks that are exploiting COVID-19 including by fraudulently claiming superannuation and government payments.
  • Providing more than 250 intelligence products to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, helping to detect and investigate a range of crimes.
  • Conducting operations covering 24 crime types — of which child sexual exploitation, environmental crime and welfare fraud were the top three.

 

Responding to the impacts of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented impacts on the financial industry and the global criminal threat environment.

In addition to COVID-19 themed scams there has also been a surge in money laundering and terrorism financing, due to a number of trends such as criminals bypassing customer due diligence measures.

A dedicated Fintel Alliance COVID-19 project was formed to help respond to the emerging risks and protect Australians from fraud.

 

Targeted reporting

Industry partners were advised to monitor and report on several areas where the financial system may be more vulnerable during the pandemic, including:

  • The targeting of government assistance programs through fraudulent applications and phishing scams.
  • An increase in the risk of online child exploitation following restrictions on travel.
  • Movement of large amounts of cash following the purchase or sale of illegal or stockpiled goods.

From 1 January to 30 June 2020, AUSTRAC received approximately 5,000 COVID-19 related suspicious matter reports, of which forty percent were from Fintel Alliance partners.

These reports allowed for more effective identification of criminal and fraudulent activity, assisted existing investigations, and helped to disrupt organised criminal networks committing fraud against the Australian government.

 

Conclusion

The Fintel Alliance is successfully bringing together public and private organisations to achieve significant results in combating serious and organised crime.

The Alliance is adapting to the changing criminal landscape, as evidenced by its development of a dedicated project to address the impacts of COVID-19 on the financial industry and numerous crime areas.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in complex cross-border cases involving money laundering, serious financial crime and other crime types investigated by the Fintel Alliance. We also have a strong working knowledge of the multitude of partners which comprise the Alliance.

Contact us if you require assistance.