Should Labor win the election, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen promised to expand anti-money laundering (AML) policies to professionals including real estate agents, accountants, and solicitors by requiring them to report dirty money being used to purchase real estate in Australia.
According to the ABC’s Four Corners program last week, Chinese law enforcement groups hired retired Australian police investigators to secretly locate where dirty money from corrupt Chinese officials and organised crime groups go. They have found that a significant portion of their illegitimate money may have been unlawfully relocated to the country to purchase legitimate assets such as real estate in Australia.
It has long been known that corrupt leaders and crime groups from all over the world have targeted Australia as a place of choice for dirty money as real estate agents, accountants, and lawyers are not required to report suspicious deals.
In the past year, the Government postponed a long-planned broadening of the AML policies to non-financial services and occupations that would compel all concerned to disclose suspicious transactions to Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Australia’s financial crimes regulator.
Government “dropped the ball” – Mr Bowen
In a recent statement made by Mr Bowen, the Government had “dropped the ball” on strengthening the rules. He adds, “According to the Government’s own work plan, real estate agents should already be covered by our money laundering laws, but the Liberals have done nothing to progress this.”
He also added that “only Labor can be trusted to take money laundering financial crime seriously.”
However, a representative from the Department of Home Affairs claimed the Government is committed to toughening anti-money laundering laws as well as ensuring that any modifications do not put “undue burden on industry”.
The Government has also raised the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) funding which will help enforce and regulate financial and business services laws to protect consumers, investors, and creditors.
President of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, Adrian Kelly, expressed concern about the impact of any changes on the industry of real estate in Australia. He said, “Any moves down this track are going to be an imposition on real estate agents who are largely small-business people.
“We wish to ensure the impact on agents is minimised because much of the information required can be sought from others involved in the transaction process, including the banks and their conveyancing process, the ATO, and the Foreign Investment Review Board.”
This article first appeared on abc.net.au.
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