AUSTRAC Wants Lawyers, Accountants Under its AML Remit

AUSTRAC chief Nicole Rose expressed concerns that professional facilitators are being used to evade money laundering detection.

AUSTRAC chief executive Nicole Rose has warned that lawyers, accountants and real estate agents are being used for money laundering and need to be brought into its AML regulatory net, reports Brisbane Times.

According to Rose, the decision on whether to bring lawyers, accountants and real estate agents under AUSTRAC’s regime is a “policy decision for government”, but she expressed concerns that these professionals are being used to evade money laundering detection.

“Certainly we are concerned about professional facilitators. I would expect that any professional in all of those areas would be reporting what they thought to be suspicious or criminal activity,” she said.

“We are concerned about those who are being unwittingly used to avoid money laundering detection, and of course are worried about those who are intentionally involved in criminal activity.”

The government is considering whether to introduce the “tranche 2” laws, after lawyers, accountants and real estate agents successfully lobbied for the regulations not to apply to them in 2018.

This week, reports emerged that referral agents such as accountants and lawyers have been promoting Euro Pacific Bank in Puerto Rico to Australian clients for low taxes and secrecy.

Euro Pacific Bank is currently the subject of a global money laundering and tax evasion investigation involving the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement – which comprises the chiefs of tax agencies in Australia, the US, UK, Canada and the Netherlands.

The revelations have sparked renewed calls from financial crime experts for the government to introduce laws that would force lawyers, accountants and real estate agents to report clients to authorities if suspicious activities are detected.

The FATF (Financial Action Task Force) issued its last mutual evaluation report on Australia in 2015. The report highlighted a need to extend AML/CTF requirements to lawyers, accountants, trust and company service providers, and real estate agents.

In the FATF’s third follow-up report on Australia, issued in November 2018, no progress was noted in this area. On FATF Recommendation 1, which includes measures for DNFBPs, Australia is still rated ‘partially compliant’.

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