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AUSTRAC launches campaign against illegal money transfer dealers

AUSTRAC has launched a campaign targeting illegal money transfer dealers.

Money transfer dealers that have not registered with AUSTRAC and are operating illegally are at a high risk of having their services abused by criminals groups and do not have the same level of risk protections in place as registered money transfer businesses.

Money transfer businesses that are not a financial institution such as a bank or credit union offer a valuable service to their customers and communities by allowing them to send money to family and friends overseas.

In 2018/19 individuals and businesses reported $60 billion worth of international funds transfer instructions sent and received by people in Australia using registered money transfer services. In the same year there were around 17.3 million transactions reported through Australia’s registered remittance sector.

AUSTRAC CEO, Nicole Rose, said unregistered money transfer dealers represent a real threat to Australian communities as they are used as havens for criminals to move money to fund their criminal activities.

“Money laundering enables criminal activity that causes real harm to Australians, such as human trafficking, child exploitation, illegal firearm sales and drug trafficking.

Registered money transfer businesses play an important role in protecting Australia’s financial system from criminal abuse. 

They are required to put in place appropriate safeguards to harden and protect their business against criminals who try to use them to launder their dirty money. Supporting unregistered money transfer dealers can potentially attract criminals into a community,” Ms Rose said.

To raise public awareness of the risks posed by illegal money transfer dealers, AUSTRAC is conducting a community campaign. AUSTRAC staff will be visiting communities and registered businesses across Australia to talk about the threat that unregistered money transfer dealers pose, and how people can anonymously report suspected unregistered dealers. Community members are being encouraged to use registered money transfer businesses listed on AUSTRAC’s website.

The campaign will see a series of town hall meetings held in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane to raise awareness of the community risks associated with unregistered money transfer dealers throughout September to November.

“Dealers who are providing an unregistered money transfer service must stop now and contact AUSTRAC to begin the registration process,” Ms Rose said.

There are large penalties for businesses who fail to register with AUSTRAC, including fines of up to $420,000, seven years’ jail, or both.

To find out more about the issue of unregistered money transfer dealers, visit www.austrac.gov.au/moneytransfer

Media contact:

media@austrac.gov.au 
Ph: (02) 9950 0488  

Consequences for unregistered remittance dealers

Example 1: 

Ms Smith runs a Sydney-based business that receives money from people in her community, including friends and family, and makes it available to their relatives overseas. At the same time, her business also receives money from overseas and makes it available to her friends and family in Australia. It is a requirement for a business conducting this activity to be registered with AUSTRAC. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to $420,000 or potential jail time, or both.

Example 2:

Ms Green occasionally provides a money transfer service for people in her community from her home. The money transfer instructions she receives from her community typically involve her customers’ family members overseas.  Ms Green does not have an Australian Business Number and charges a low fee for her money transfer services.  Ms Green uses a registered money transfer provider to send and receive the money she accepts for and distributes to her community.  Ms Green must register with AUSTRAC even though she earns little money from her activities, only accepts a small number of money transfer transactions per year and uses the services of a registered money transfer service provider. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to $420,000 or potential jail time, or both.

Example 3:

Mr Jones runs a Melbourne-based business that offers money transfer services for customers under two different business arrangements. He provides money transfer services in his capacity as a registered affiliate of a money transfer network provider and provides money transfer services under his own business name, “Mr Jones money transfer services”, using his own money transfer systems and platforms. In these circumstances, Mr Jones must separately register his “Mr Jones money transfer services” business with AUSTRAC as an independent money transfer provider. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to $420,000 or potential jail time, or both.

Translated media release