PHOTO: An anti-money laundering expert has told a senate inquiry the flow of illicit money into Australia’s property market could be driving up prices. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Australia now ‘destination of choice’ for flow of illicit funds, anti-corruption expert says

Weak and outdated laws are allowing widespread money laundering in the property sector, making Australia a “destination of choice” for illicit funds and “locking many Australians out of owning their own homes”, a Senate inquiry has been told.

The Senate is probing the strength of Australia’s money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws, and heard on Tuesday from anti-corruption group Transparency International Australia and its director, former Austrac general counsel Russell Wilson.

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Transparency International Australia’s chief executive, Serena Lillywhite, said Australia had become the “destination of choice” for the flow of illicit funds, particularly for “corruption-related proceeds, which too often do end up in the property market”.

The group provided a list of 10 publicly-reported examples showing money laundering in the property market, from Sudan, China, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Russia. The examples described money laundering in property by Sudanese generals, Malaysian bankers, PNG’s political elite, and Chinese high-rollers.

Lillywhite said Australia’s weak anti-money laundering regime, flaws with the corporate registry, and the lack of a beneficial ownership register all contributed to the problem.

“Money laundering is not a faceless crime… it has devastating impacts, both in Australia and overseas,” she said. “It can reasonably be argued that it is driving up property prices in Australia and locking many Australians out of owning their own home.”

Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws have remained largely the same since they were introduced in 2006. A promised second tranche of reforms is yet to materialise.


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