MILLIONS of dollars in suspicious financial transactions, including some linked to child exploitation and drug dealing, have been reported under new anti-money laundering laws.
But police still cannot point to the number of arrests made or prosecutions launched as a result of the restrictive new regime installed in June 2013, or say how many of those reported as suspicious required more investigation.
In the first year of the Anti-Money-Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act being fully enacted, placing increased onus on banks and other financial institutions to detect suspicious transactions, almost 87,000 transactions worth $3.5 billion were reported to police.
In the previous year, before the law was passed, almost 12,000, worth $545 million, were reported.
Information released by police under the Official Information Act shows the suspicious transaction reports had “detected or contributed to [the] investigation of crimes including money laundering, drug dealing. large scale transnational fraud, abuse of trusts and companies and payments suspected to relate to child exploitation.
The size of the suspicious transactions reported in 2013-14 ranged from small sums to millions of dollars, averaging out at $40,400 a transaction.
Police could not provide the number of prosecutions or investigations linked to the reporting, saying such investigations were long term “and may take many years.”
“For example, prosecutions for money laundering may relate to offending which occurred several years before charges are laid.
“Therefore, quantitative analysis of the effect of commencement of the act is not currently available.”
Investigations into money laundering, predicate offences – crimes that generate the money that needs laundering – and terrorist financing also drew on a range of sources, and therefore “it will remain difficult to quantify the effect of financial intelligence contribution to investigation”.
A spokesperson for the banking ombudsman said that, in the first year, they dealt with 39 cases of people complaining or taking action over the new rules.
Three of these were formal complaints about banks, while four became disputes in which the banks and the customers could not resolve the issue and formal investigations were launched.
Report by Michael Fox
The Dominion Post. 27/09/2014. P. A2.