Cyber-enabled fraud, child exploitation among the focus for AUSTRAC and ASEAN financial intelligence

AUSTRAC and its ASEAN counterparts have wrapped up a gathering in Melbourne, agreeing to collaborate further in the fight against transnational crimes. 

The Financial Intelligence Consultative Group (FICG) is a group of Australasian and ASEAN financial intelligence units (FIU). Established by AUSTRAC and its Indonesian counterpart in 2016, it collaborates and shares actionable intelligence to support FIUs in the fight against crimes like money laundering and terrorism financing. Their work contributes to the safety and security of the financial systems in our region. 

The FICG’s 2024 Plenary in Melbourne included representatives from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The head of the Cook Islands FIU and representatives from the Japanese FIU also attended as observers. 

AUSTRAC Deputy CEO Intelligence John Moss is co-chair of the FICG, together with Attorney Matthew David, head of the Philippines’ financial intelligence unit.

“The FICG’s been around for almost eight years now and in that time we’ve built trust and expertise among members,” said Dr Moss. 

“Transnational, serious and organised crime is borderless. So if we try to prevent and disrupt it within our borders, we have no chance of success.”

He said the most important thing to come out of this year’s plenary is an agreement on the group’s priorities for the next year.

“We’ve taken the perspectives of member countries and distilled it into an operational focus on three areas – our regional information-sharing platform, cyber-enabled fraud and the financing of child sexual exploitation.” 

All our member countries are different but each of these actions is a commitment to protect the most vulnerable members of the community.”

The delegates formally launched a regional information-sharing platform, which Dr Moss says will take their relationships a step further. 

“FIUs are already good at information sharing. But we need to go deeper – understand each other’s capabilities … and make the whole greater than the sum of our parts.” 

The platform will allow for real-time sharing of information, case studies and technologies. Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines are inaugural participants and other countries have indicated their desire to join.

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A group of people dressed professionally are seated formally for a group photo. Two banners on either side read FICG.
Official group photo of the FICG Plenary in May 2024 in Melbourne.