New Zealand FIU Boasts ‘Excellent Outcomes’ in June

June saw the restraint of NZ$140mn from alleged money launderer Alexander Vinnik and the seizure of over 30 high-end cars from outlaw motorcycle gangs.

New Zealand FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) has released the first in what will be a regular monthly report to demonstrate how SARs (suspicious activity reports) and STRs (suspicious transaction reports) from reporting entities are being used.

The report, covering the month of June, highlights the restraint of NZD 140 million from alleged money launderer Alexander Vinnik, a Russian national currently in custody in France. The restraint, representing the largest ever restraint of funds in New Zealand police history, was sparked by two STRs and supported by several reported IFTs (international funds transfers).

Authorities also seized over 30 high-end cars from three different outlaw motorcycle gangs during the month. The most notable was the recovery of five high-value vehicles worth a total NZD 650,000 from the Comancheros gang, where a gang member and two associates were arrested and charged with money laundering.

The operation was supported by 11 SARs, 85 reported transactions, and CCTV footage submitted by banks, money remitters and high value dealers between January 2018 and April 2020.

The report also presents the FIU’s analysis of the SARs and STRs reported in June to provide a better understanding of trends in the indicators reported. The two most common indicators selected were ‘Activity Does not Match Client Profile’ and ‘Fraud’.

Activities that did not match the client profile included multiple ATM withdrawals in a short period of time, unusually large wire transfers, and large cash deposits followed by immediate international transfers, among others.

Other common indicators selected were Structuring, Tax Evasion, and Drugs. The most often selected secondary indicator was fraud related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the report, several STRs reported related to suspicions that individuals or companies were exploiting Covid-19 wage subsidies or business loans, such as where customers were granted the loans despite not being in business, or where wage subsidies were received and then withdrawn immediately.

The report also notes that the FIU has advanced its ‘Service Delivery Transformation Project’. A Request for Proposal (RFP) was closed last month for a new intelligence tool that will enable the FIU to better analyse the prescribed transactions reporting (PTR) data including international fund transfers and cash transaction reports.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s public private partnership – the FCPN (Financial Crime Prevention Network) – has agreed on a work plan to covering typology products related to child exploitation, trade based money laundering, virtual asset service providers (VASPs), and trust and company service providers.

The full report is available here.

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