Serious financial crime causes major harm to Australian businesses and individuals, and reduces government spending on essential services, infrastructure and education programs due to the loss of government funds through fraud.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) released their Serious Financial Crime in Australia 2017 report, identifying the key financial crime markets and enablers. The report also details a number of Australian Government initiatives to tackle serious financial crime and reduce the impact on the Australian public.
Serious Financial Crime Taskforce
In 2015, the Australian Government established the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce, uniting various task force agencies to identify and respond to serious financial crime in Australia. The Serious Financial Crime Taskforce member agencies include:
- Attorney-General’s Department (AGD)
- Australian Border Force (ABF)
- Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC)
- Australian Federal Police (AFP)
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
- Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
- Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)
- Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
The Serious Financial Crime Taskforce forms part of the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre, but targets the highest priority serious financial crimes.
Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre
Established in 2013 and led by the AFP, the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre was established to focus on serious and complex fraud against the Commonwealth, corruption by Australian Government employees, foreign bribery and complex identity crime involving the manufacture and abuse of official credentials.
From 2006 to 2015, Project Wickenby targeted international tax evasion and the professional facilitators involved.
Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce
The Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce is led by the AFP, in collaboration with the ATO and ACIC. Established in 2011, this initiative aims to confiscate criminals’ assets bought with proceeds of crime.
Tax Avoidance Taskforce – Trusts; formerly Trusts Taskforce
Led by the ATO, the Trusts Taskforce was established in 2013 to target businesses and individuals involved in tax avoidance or evasion using trust structures. Since 1 July 2017, the work of the Trusts Taskforce has continued under the ATO’s Tax Avoidance Taskforce – Trusts.
Illegal phoenix activity is defined by the ATO as ‘when a new company is created to continue the business of a company that has been deliberately liquidated to avoid paying its debts, including taxes, creditors and employee entitlements’.
Established in 2014, the Phoenix Taskforce incorporates over 20 government agencies with an aim to combat illegal phoenix activity. The Phoenix Taskforce also works in collaboration with the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce to tackle serious financial crime related to illegal phoenix behaviour.
Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network
Established in 2014, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) is the ACIC-led national policing initiative that enables the public to securely report instances of cybercrime through a national online system, as well as helping the government to better understand the enablers of cybercrime so that it can educate members of the public.
Australian Financial Crimes Exchange
Established in 2016 and led by the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD), the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange partners the AGD with the big four banks to provide security capabilities, technology and intelligence on a centralised platform. This allows financial institutions to share fraud and cybercrime-related data, with the aim to improve responses to these types of financial crimes and reduce the impact on customers and shareholders.
Launched in 2017 and led by AUSTRAC, the Fintel Alliance is a public-private partnership aimed at combating money laundering and terrorism financing. With membership from Australian Government agencies, industry partners and international law enforcement, the Fintel Alliance aims to protect the integrity of Australia’s financial systems from organised crime and terrorism financiers impacting on Australia.
Black Economy Taskforce
In 2017, the Australian Government established the Black Economy Taskforce to target those who evade or do not correctly report tax.
The Australian Government has implemented a wide range of initiatives to identify and address the issue of serious financial crime in Australia, with an aim to reduce the burden on the Australian public and businesses. Initiatives such as the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce are a collaborative effort of a number of government agencies. As of August 2017, the efforts of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce had recouped over $152 million for the Commonwealth, raised over $391 million in tax liabilities, executed 54 search warrants, completed 587 audits, prosecuted four people and convicted four people.