AUSTRAC and financial intelligence units across the Pacific meet in Cook Islands to further fight against money laundering

Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) across the Pacific met in the Cook Islands this week to strengthen partnerships within the region to combat serious financial crime.

The second in-person plenary of the Pacific Financial Intelligence Community (PFIC) was held in Rarotonga and co-hosted by AUSTRAC and the Cook Islands Financial Intelligence Unit (CIFIU).

At the conference, Pacific FIUs and members of the region’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) teams identified pathways for future collaboration to further detect and disrupt regional financial crime threats.

PFIC members signalled their collective desire to broaden their efforts to share financial intelligence and collaborate to fight financial crime through the signing of a Statement of Intent.

The Head of the Cook Islands FIU and current Co-Chair of the PFIC Mr Walter Henry stated: “We are proud to be hosting the 2nd annual PFIC meeting in the Cook Islands. We recognise the strength that comes from FIUs working together to disrupt the forces that undermine a secure and stable Pacific region. The Plenary has provided a mechanism for us to gather and utilise our collective ability to strengthen our regional responses to financial crime both now and into the future.”

AUSTRAC Deputy CEO and Co-Chair of the PFIC, Dr John Moss, stated: “Sharing financial intelligence, tradecraft and financial tools is vital so that as a region of enduring Pacific partners, we pool capabilities to respond to threats which undermine our collective financial security and community safety.”

Held over three days, the PFIC Plenary meeting provides a valuable opportunity for FIUs to further explore initiatives to fight financial crime, including joint operations, capacity building activities and region-wide technological enhancements.

In attendance at the PFIC Conference were representatives from the financial intelligence units of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.

AUSTRAC provides Cook Islands FIU with new data analytics system

AUSTRAC has also provided the Cook Islands Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) with a new data analytics system that will aid in the detection of money laundering and be used to combat criminal and national security threats.

The TAIPAN system will enable intelligence analysts in Cook Islands FIU to identify suspicious financial patterns that can trigger a deeper investigation, as money laundering is a common element in most crimes as criminals seek to conceal the source of the funds.

The capabilities of TAIPAN give Cook Islands, and other Pacific partners, enhanced ability to respond to complex money laundering in the region through innovative triage and interrogation of bulk data.

New technologies are changing the financial landscape in the Pacific which transnational crime syndicates have targeted. AUSTRAC’s partnership with Cook Islands FIU will mitigate these vulnerabilities, and ensure Pacific Islands are not seen as an attractive conduit by criminals.

Cook Islands Prime Minister, the Honourable Mr Mark Brown, stated that a collective challenge that confronts the region is increased organised crime over the past few years.

“Responding to financial threats through regional cooperation is essential in an increasingly connected world, where financial transactions that pose a threat to safety can rapidly transit multiple countries,” he said.

“The deployment of the TAIPAN system and the hosting of the PFIC signals the Cook Islands’ intent at both a national and regional level to deter transnational criminal syndicates, and combat financial crimes, whether money laundering or corruption.”

AUSTRAC Acting CEO, Mr Pete Soros, stated that financial transactions underpin every element of modern life so it is important to consider regional security through the prism of financial intelligence.

“As Australia’s financial intelligence unit, AUSTRAC is committed to ensuring the security of financial systems in our country – and our region – are resistant to criminal and national security threats,” he said.

“Issues like money laundering, drug and human trafficking, and corruption are not specific to any one nation and transcend international borders. This is why uplifting financial intelligence capability in Australia and across the Pacific is crucial to regional security, economic stability, and community confidence.”


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