Australian charities targeted for money laundering, terrorism financing
28 Aug 2017

By Irene Madongo

Australian charities and non-profit organisations (NPOs) are being used to launder dirty cash and finance terror, government officials have warned.

After evaluating thousands of registered NPOs, a new risk assessment by national financial intelligence agency Austrac and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), found significant links between registered charities and some of the country’s most serious and organised crime groups.

“Between 2012 and 2016, 735 investigations were conducted into suspicious criminal misuse –nearly all of these investigations related to fraud or theft of resources,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan MP said in a statement.

“There were also 28 SMRs related to terrorism financing involving NPOs, with a total value of $5.6 million,” Keenan explained, adding “what this shows is that NPOs have the capacity to quickly raise and camouflage the movement of large amounts of funds offshore to support individuals or groups engaged in foreign conflict.”

“While this is a relatively small figure compared to the overall income of the sector, it represents a significant figure in the current terrorism financing environment,” Keenan said.

Australia’s 54,000 registered charities generate over $134 billion annually, and thousands of these send around $1.5 billion in donations and grants overseas annually.

The report found a ‘medium’ risk level with regards to money laundering and terrorism financing within the sector.

Financial crime issues in Australia have made headlines recently after Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) was alleged to have been used by money launderers and terrorist financiers to funnel dirty cash.

On Monday the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority announced it would launch an inquiry into its culture and compliance frameworks, among other issues. CBA said it welcomed the move.

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