New agreement to crack down on use of real estate to launder money

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It sounds like something out of Hollywood, but a new agreement will see Australian authorities use intelligence from Russia to combat the use of real estate to launder money.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), the government body responsible for monitoring money laundering, recently signed a memorandum of understanding to exhchange financial information with Russia, as well as Bahrain and the Turks & Caicos Islands.

An AUSTRAC spokesperson said the agreement would strengthen Australia’s national security.

Following the money trail is an essential element of tackling serious and organised crime and international co-operation is vital in detecting and disrupting illegal operations,” the spokesperson told The Gold Coast Bulletin.

“Collaboration on financial intelligence with our international partners strengthens Australia’s national security.”

A recent report from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris based inter-governmental group that fights money laundering world-wide, highlighted that Australian real estate is attractive to international money launderers.

“Australia is also at significant risk of an inflow of illicit funds from persons in foreign countries who find Australia a suitable place to hold and invest funds, including in real estate,” the FATF report said.

According to the FATF, poor communication between authorities in Australia has resulted in real estate markets in certain areas becoming prime targets for launderers.

“Federal and State action is not effectively coordinated,” the FATF report states.

“For example, while money laundering of foreign illicit proceeds through real estate is perceived to be a risk for Queensland (Gold Coast), Queensland has no money laundering convictions for this activity.

“The Australian Federal Police (AFP) indicated that it does not focus on this risk, believing this money laundering activity relates to State level predicates, whereas the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission stated it does not focus on this risk as it relates to foreign money and is thus a matter for the AFP.”

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