Australia’s Fintel Alliance

In 2017 AUSTRAC launched the Fintel Alliance, bringing together government, industry, academia and other international partners in the fight against money laundering, terrorism financing and other serious crime.

Alliance partners include major banks, remittance service providers and gambling operators, as well as law enforcement and security agencies from Australia and overseas.

In its 2018-19 annual report, AUSTRAC provides some insight into the key achievements of the Fintel Alliance including dismantling significant fraud networks and providing vital intelligence leading to the arrests of 9 of Australia’s Most Wanted criminals.

 

What makes the Fintel Alliance unique?

 

A global model for public-private partnerships

The Fintel Alliance is recognised as a global leader in public-private partnerships to combat and prevent serious financial crime.

Harnessing the relationships AUSTRAC has established through its dual role as Australia’s financial intelligence unit and AML/CTF regulator, the Alliance has now expanded to 25 public and private sector partners, with three new private sector entities joining in 2018-19.

In addition to operational collaborations including the exchange and analysis of information, partners also co-design and test innovative new technology solutions to support operations.

Fintel Alliance is a partnership and does not create legally binding additional obligations on members outside of those covered under the AML/CTF Act.

In the 2019-20 Budget, the Australian Government announced new funding of $28.4 million to AUSTRAC over four years to continue and expand Fintel Alliance operations.

 

Specialised taskforces

Due to the vast spectrum of expertise held by the Alliance members, highly specialised taskforces can be formed leveraging the skills and experience of the most appropriate members to tackle a specific threat.

Throughout the reporting period, 13 different taskforces investigated a range of crimes involving some of Australia’s most wanted criminals in the areas of:

  • Serious and organised crime
  • Sophisticated offshore tax crime
  • Drug crime
  • Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs)
  • Potential terrorism and human trafficking
  • Illegal labour hire

In 2018-19, these taskforces contributed to over 20 people being detained/arrested, over 50 victims being identified/protected and over 200 million drugs seized.

 

Key results 2018-19

The work of the Fintel Alliance contributed to significant positive results in a number of crime areas throughout 2018-19.

 

Child exploitation

Fintel Alliance efforts have provided critical information, such as the detection of child exploitation material (CEM) and identification of Australian residents sending transactions to vulnerable countries for the purpose of live-distance child abuse.

During the reporting period, Fintel Alliance efforts led to:

  • 35 victims saved or protected
  • 73 persons detained or arrested
  • 2 major international collaborations across Southeast Asia and UK

Since starting, Fintel Alliance operations have contributed to 85% of CEM detections, and detection of CEM activity has increased 6 times.

 

Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs)

This work involves monitoring OMCG leadership, wealth, recruitment, and movement across international borders.

During the reporting period, Fintel Alliance efforts led to:

  • 27 potential suspects identified
  • 73 investigations through the private sector
  • 1 major international collaboration with New Zealand Police and NZ FIU

80% of OMCG detections are reported through Fintel Alliance, and there has been a 380% increase in OMCG suspicious activity detection since the inception of the Alliance.

 

Exploitation of government revenues

6 operations have been undertaken throughout the period relating to:

  • Tax fraud and evasion
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) fraud
  • Family day care (FDC) fraud
  • Phoenixing and business rebirthing

These operations involved collaboration between a wide range of partners including the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and specialist taskforces such as the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce.

9 people were detained or arrested as a result of these efforts.

 

Complex financial crime

6 operations have been undertaken throughout the period relating to:

  • Scam and money mules
  • Suspect charitable and non-profit organisations (NPOs)
  • Complex fraud and money laundering
  • Credit card fraud and identity theft

Key collaborations involved the AFP, ACIC, ATO, NSW Police, Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), IDCARE and Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX).

Highlights include the identification of over 2,500 stolen credit cards and identities, enhanced detection capabilities for scam and money mules, and the identification of the main criminal, money laundering and terrorism financing threats currently facing non-profit organisations.

 

Regional and community harms

10 operations were undertaken to combat:

  • Foreign bribery and corruption – through the analysis of financial intelligence and enhanced cross-regional collaboration
  • Multi-region drug trafficking and importation – three major cross-border drug trafficking investigations were initiated and at least 5 people arrested
  • Foreign politically exposed persons
  • Visa cancellations

 

Technology-enabled and cyber crimes

4 operations were undertaken to combat:

Key collaborations included with the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN).

 

Combating money laundering

Combating and detecting money laundering is a critical function of the Fintel Alliance.

Money laundering is a unique crime in that it is often used to cover up another crime and allow the perpetrator/s to enjoy the proceeds while evading detection.

The Alliance therefore takes a combined approach to detecting and disrupting both money laundering and the predicate offences often associated with the laundering of criminal proceeds, such as child sexual exploitation and drug trafficking.

The detection of money laundering varies within each crime group, requiring highly effective cross-regional collaboration with government agencies and the private sector and the leveraging of taskforces to best combat each specific threat.

 

Conclusion

The Fintel Alliance is a world-first public-private partnership that leverages the expertise of government, industry, academia and specialised taskforces to disrupt serious crime. Since its inception in 2017, the Alliance has achieved results in combating money laundering, complex financial crime, cybercrime and child exploitation, amongst other key crime areas. With rapid expansion enabled by increased government funding, it is likely that the coming years will see an increase in investigations and prosecutions in the crime areas targeted by the Fintel Alliance.

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.