Foreign criminals laundering funds through NZ casinos - DIA

12:51 pm on 6 August 2019

Officials believe international criminals are using New Zealand-based casinos to launder money earned from crime.

No caption

Photo: [dl.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com] CC0 Public Domain

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) anti-money laundering group director, Mike Stone, said casinos were flagged as a high risk.

"There is little doubt international criminals would choose to capitalise on New Zealand's good business reputation," Mr Stone said.

"I suspect like many casinos around the world, they would target New Zealand casinos to launder their money."

He said most money laundered in this country was earned through fraud, the sale or manufacturing of illegal drugs and tax evasion.

Listed casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group would not say if it had ever caught a customer laundering money at any of its three New Zealand-based casinos.

"'As a casino, [we] are obliged to have strict anti-money laundering programmes in place to mitigate the risk of money laundering," a SkyCity spokesperson said in a written statement.

"[We] report a variety of transactions to the police to assist in combating financial crime."

SkyCity did not detail the anti-money laundering measures it had in place.

New Zealand's law to prevent money laundering was fully extended last week.

SkyCity signage

SkyCity Entertainment Group would not say if it had ever caught a customer laundering money at any of its three New Zealand-based casinos. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The TAB and dealers of high-value goods, such as art and cars, fell under the law on Thursday, joining casinos, banks, accounting firms, law firms and real estate firms.

Mr Stone said regulation existed over all of the common methods criminals used to launder money.

"Each business has their own risks and own unique business offerings and structures that could be manipulated by criminals," he said.

"We are concerned about any method a criminal might use to try and conceal the origin of criminal funds."

National strategy underway

A committee created under the The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act (AML/CFT Act) was developing a cross-agency national strategy of the law.

The National Co-ordination Committee consisted of representatives from the DIA, the Ministry of Justice, Customs, police, the Financial Markets Authority and Reserve Bank.

Ministry of Justice general manager of criminal justice, Brendan Gage, said the committee agreed to develop a strategy in 2017, but it was put on hold due to 'competing priorities'.

It was picked up this year and was due to be completed by September, he said.

"Over the past few months the ministry has engaged with other government agencies to identify what is currently working well with the AML/CFT legislation, what could be improved, and identify what the strategic priorities over the next five to 10 years should be," Mr Gage said.

"The Ministry will be engaging with private sector stakeholders for their feedback on the draft strategy framework and potential actions."

New Zealand was a member of the multinational Financial Action Task Force. Its compliance with the force's recommendations would be evaluated next year.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs