22 Jul 2019

Lawyers, accountants report 250 suspicious transactions to police

10:34 am on 22 July 2019

More than a tenth of suspicious financial transactions reported to authorities under anti-money laundering laws are resulting in an investigation.

Stack of New Zealand Dollar

In the past year, 250 reports have been submitted to authorities related to money laundering, 34 of those have been passed on to investigators such as police. Photo: 123RF

Information provided to RNZ by police shows lawyers, accountants and real estate agents have submitted 250 reports over the past year, with 34 being passed on to authorities, such as the police, to investigate.

The most common reports included the use of trusts, shell companies, and specially structured transactions to disguise suspected tax evasion, fraud, and laundering of the proceeds of drugs and other criminal ventures.

Police Financial Intelligence Unit manager, Detective Inspector Christiaan Barnard, said the extension of the anti-money laundering law to a broader range of professions and firms, such as real estate agents, had proved worthwhile.

"We are very pleased with the level of engagement across the three sectors and they are directly contributing to the detection and disruption of organised crime in New Zealand," he said.

"Their compliance with due diligence requirements and the submission of suspicious activity reports makes it difficult for criminals to use the financial system to conceal their ill-gotten gains.

The reports are lodged anonymously through a portal on the police website, called GoAML.

Mr Barnard said police worked with industry bodies to raise awareness of what entities must report.

The New Zealand Racing Board and dealers of high-value goods such as art, jewellery and cars, come under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act in August.

Officials estimated $1.35 billion from the proceeds of fraud and illegal drugs was laundered through New Zealand businesses annually.