Australian Federal Police launches new AML taskforce

The AFP believes billions of dollars are being laundered in Australia every year.
The AFP believes billions of dollars are being laundered in Australia every year.

The AFP has launched Taskforce Avarus to target large-scale money laundering through the financial system and property market.

Australia.- The Australian Federal Police has launched a multi-agency taskforce to combat money laundering in Australia. Taskforce Avarus aims to stop criminals from laundering money through the financial system and property market.

According to the AFP, criminal gangs in Sydney are laundering AU$1m an hour on some days by flying money mules across the country to collect illegal cash and deposit it into ATMs. They also said that cash couriers are using “dead drop zones” in parks and bushland to move illicit money, while baby formula, vitamins and high-end goods are also being used to launder money.

The taskforce will work with Australian Border Force (ABF), the AFP, AUSTRAC and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. Together with Commonwealth partners, the AFP will also seek public-private relationships, including with financial institutions.

AUSTRAC deputy CEO for intelligence Dr John Moss said: “Criminals engage in the activities which are the most lucrative, like trafficking in drugs or humans. So when criminals are cleaning the money made from these crimes, people shouldn’t lose sight of the child that was exploited, or the violence and deaths caused by the trafficking of illicit drugs.

“That’s why AUSTRAC is proud to be part of this taskforce and brings our strong partnership with the financial industry through the AUSTRAC-led Fintel Alliance, our deep expertise in Financial Intelligence and our regulatory powers to work with our law enforcement partners to hit transnational, serious and organised crime where it hurts.”

ABF assistant commissioner Erin Dale added: “This taskforce allows the ABF to maintain a contemporary operational presence in the area of serious organised crime where there is an identified border nexus. Multi-agency activities like AVARUS provide an important opportunity for law enforcement partners to leverage the ABF’s substantial capabilities.”

A week ago, AUSTRAC announced the establishment of a second specialist unit to combat money laundering in the gambling industry. The watchdog said the unit has been created in response to “serious non-compliance in a number of businesses”.

Last year, AUSTRAC launched an investigation into suspicions that Sportsbet and Bet365 failed to comply with anti-money laundering laws. External auditors are expected to report back on their findings soon. 

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