ldquo;Following the money trail is an essential element” in tackling organized crime, Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said in Beijing Tuesday after the pact was signed with representatives of China’s Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center.
The agreement has been under discussion for more than a year and predates the detention last month of 18 employees of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd.—three of them Australian citizens—as part of what Chinese authorities say is an investigation into gambling-related crimes. A fourth Australian who didn’t work for Crown was also detained.
The move opened up a fresh front in a long-running anticorruption drive by Chinese President Xi Jinping that focuses on individuals, including party officials, who have allegedly have moved stolen funds out of the country.
As part of the clampdown, dubbed Operation Fox Hunt, China has tried to build cooperation with foreign authorities to track laundered money and investment flows
Mr. Keenan said he raised the Crown detentions during the talks, but didn’t disclose details. “I made it clear in my conversations that the Australian government is deeply interested in this case but beyond that I don’t know that there’s much further that I can usefully add,” he said.
Paul Jevtovic, head of the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, said the new agreement would allow financial intelligence to be shared with the Chinese to identify money-laundering and terrorism-financing activities and support related law-enforcement investigations.
“This is designed to enhance the ability of China and Australia to detect and disrupt serious financial crimes as well as to harden and protect our financial systems from criminal abuse,” Mr. Jevtovic said
John Schmidt, a former chief executive of Austrac, last year estimated that billions of dollars in illegal foreign cash flows may be winding up in Australia—much of it in the country’s residential and commercial property markets.
The Financial Action Taskforce, a Paris based intergovernmental organization founded to combat money laundering, urged the Australian government in a report last year to strengthen anti-laundering measures and improve oversight of the property sector.
China’s Ministry of Public Security said last month the U.S., Canada, Australia and Singapore had all become popular destinations for corrupt officials fleeing the country because of a lack of bilateral extradition treaties.
China’s Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center is a unit of the country’s central bank charged with helping Beijing fulfill its commitments to international conventions on illicit capital flows.
In recent months the body has signed memorandums of understanding with a small group of other countries, including Cambodia, Laos and Uzbekistan, according to its website, while it has also hosted U.S. Treasury officials who monitor money laundering.