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October 2020 – founder note

October has been another busy month for Arctic Intelligence and for the financial crime compliance community as whole, as momentum is solidly building in the mainstream and social media, below are some of the key AML highlights from this month.

In Australia, it’s all been happening – Firstly, AUSTRAC announced in a media release that it has reached an agreement for a proposed AUD$1.3 billion civil penalty with Westpac over its  breaches of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) Act and now the decision is sitting with the Federal Court of Australia, but if it approves the penalty order it will be the largest ever civil fine in Australian history and a wake-up call to Boards of corporate Australia particularly within the financial services sector to keep on top of their money laundering risks.

Hot on the heels of this, AUSTRAC almost immediately announced that it had its sights set on another high-profile target which has since been confirmed as Crown Resorts, who have also been on centre stage at the NSW Casino Inquiry, which is well worth watching.  To support AUSTRAC in their quest, they also received a boost in the 2020-21 budget with additional government funding to help them bolster their team and replace  legacy technology systems. Nicole Rose, AUSTRAC’s CEO also called on the Australian Government to finally make a decision (after 14 years of procrastination) to extend Australia’s AML laws to gatekeeper professions like lawyers, accountants and real-estate agents and bring Australia, into line with almost every other FATF-member country.

On this point, in the UK (whose AML laws have long applied to gatekeepers), the Times newspaper published a really interesting article on Britain’s role in global money laundering and highlighted the importance of gatekeeper professions being regulated for AML/CTF.  The expansion of AML laws to these sectors was also a key topic when I was interviewed on to the ABC’s Saturday Extra program alongside James Frost from the Australian Financial Review, where we talked about the impact of money laundering on our society and the role that regulated businesses have in fighting financial crime.

Internationally,  the fallout from the FINCEN Files continues to highlight numerous challenges for banks, regulators and compliance professionals.  The FINCEN files have also highlighted the role that trust and company service providers (yet another sector outside of the scope of Australia’s AML laws) play in setting up thousands of companies and trusts, which were partly responsible for some of the $235m that flowed through Australian Banks, among the leak of 2,500 documents from FINCEN on a staggering USD$2 trillion flow of funds.

Closer to home, earlier this month we have made a few organisational changes at Arctic Intelligence and welcomed Nick Roberts and Andrew Carriline to our Board. I wanted to acknowledge Michael Happell and Neil Helm, our retiring Directors, for guiding the Board and our business over the last 4 years.  The Board and I have also decided to promote Darren Cade, our long-standing COO, to the CEO role to run the business operationally, freeing my time to work on strategic initiatives and with a renewed focus on supporting and growing our client and strategic alliance partners in Australia and overseas – what an exciting time to be in this space!

If you would like to find out more about how Arctic Intelligence’s financial crime risk assessment solutions help strengthen our clients defences, please drop us a line to arrange a demonstration.

Stay safe everyone!

Anthony Quinn, Founder & Director, Arctic Intelligence