AML: Austrac update on new anti-money laundering laws
31 Jan 2018

Australia’s financial regulator has published a news update of changes to rules made recently and proposed laws.

Highlighted are the new anti-money laundering (AML) and counter terrorism financing (CFT) rules that seek to reduce the chances of criminals being inadvertently ‘tipped off’ to law enforcement investigations.

This may apply in cases where a law enforcement agency seeks information from a bank as part of an investigation into the bank’s customer, Austrac explained.

“The bank is currently required by the AML/CTF Act to conduct ongoing customer due diligence … which might make the bank seek information from the customer, which then alerts the customer to the law enforcement investigation.”

Under the new AML/CTF rules, however, certain law enforcement agencies can request an exemption for a reporting entity from particular obligations for six months, or until the investigation has finished (whichever occurs first).

“Industry and government partners strongly support these new Rules. This is an innovative approach for [Austrac] to support law enforcement partners in stopping criminal activity,” the watchdog said.

Also included in the new rules on the AML/CFT scene is the Digital Currency Exchange Register, which requires DCE providers to register with Austrac, a move that the regulator said closes a gap where these businesses were not regulated.

“A benefit to DCE providers is that being registered can help boost consumer confidence in the sector,” said Austrac.

Earlier this month Austrac’s CEO signed a new AML/CTF rules amendment instrument which will implement some of the recommendations from a recent statutory review of Australia’s AML/CTF regime.

It will also address deficiencies identified by the Financial Action Task Force in Australia’s fourth-round mutual evaluation.

Australia has been making efforts to reform its financial crime regime, however it has faced some challenges.

In 2017, a main lender, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, was rocked with a scandal over allegations criminals and terror financiers used its intelligent deposit machines to shift millions of dollars.

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