Global report applauds New Zealand police, but advises strengthening financial intelligence unit

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A global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog has found that New Zealand police are doing a good job seizing the proceeds of crime and have a solid understanding of the risks of money laundering.

The Financial Action Task Force report praised New Zealand’s asset restriction teams.
Photo: 123RF

But he found several loopholes in the police’s financial intelligence unit that needed strengthening, saying it could use better analytical tools and benefit from the potential of financial intelligence to detect the criminal activities of people not yet known. law enforcement.

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force released its New Zealand Mutual Assessment in April.

The head of the Financial Intelligence Unit, Detective Inspector Christiaan Barnard, wrote his notes on the report in a document released by police this month and praised the asset recovery team led by the Detective Inspector Craig Hamilton, calling the team world class.

The FIU and the Asset Recovery Team played a key role in Operation Trojan Shield, which saw 35 people arrested and more than 900 charges laid earlier this week.

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Police said out of 37 search warrants, assets worth $ 3.7 million were seized. This included 14 vehicles, two of which were ships, and over $ 1 million in cash.

The Financial Action Task Force report praised New Zealand’s asset restriction teams.

“New Zealand police have a strong focus on confiscating the proceeds of crime, supported by a high level target for the volume of criminal assets to be restricted ($ 500 million by 2021).

“The qualified Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) works in cooperation with investigating authorities to initiate parallel seizure and confiscation proceedings in response to identified crimes and financial intelligence.

“New Zealand has pursued international asset recovery cases that involve significant volumes of inbound and outbound products.”

The report also states that New Zealand has a solid understanding of the risks associated with money laundering.

“New Zealand is identifying and pursuing parallel money laundering investigations alongside major proceeds investigations.

“Its authorities are sufficiently qualified and trained to conduct financial investigations with a wide range of investigative tools at their disposal.

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“Financial investigations are increasingly used to support money laundering prosecutions and the number of money laundering prosecutions has increased since 2018.”

Detective Inspector Craig Hamilton, head of police asset recovery and money laundering teams, did not reveal details of how police withheld assets or exposed money laundering in connection with Operation Trojan Shield or related investigations.

However, the Financial Action Task Force report highlighted transparency issues regarding actual business owners in New Zealand, for example shell companies and trusts that can be used to launder money.

Hamilton was unwilling to discuss the possible use of shell companies or trusts, but said criminals were looking at loopholes like these.

“Criminals will look for weaknesses in any system, and this report is a good opportunity for us to really sit down and take a look at some of the laws that exist around things like starting a business and the like, to look and look at if there are any weaknesses there that we need to address, ”Hamilton said.

“It’s a constantly changing environment. Crime is constantly changing, new technologies and the like, the accessibility to our systems here has never been greater.

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“So there is work to be done, and we are looking forward to these reviews and trying to harden our environment here so that criminals can operate.”

Hamilton said anyone who spotted suspicious financial activity should come forward and report it.

The Financial Action Task Force came up with four recommendations which are being implemented by the Financial Intelligence Unit.

He said the Unit lacks analytical tools for all the data it obtains, which is why New Zealand-based Acumen BI was selected to provide a new suite of tools to the Unit. .

Christiaan Barnard said the tools will improve analysis and broaden the reach of financial intelligence within law enforcement.

The FIU has also been told that it could do better to detect the criminal activities of people who are not already known to the law.

It is hoped that the new tools will help solve this problem.

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