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Partners in Crimestopping

​A few years ago in Australia, a group of industry representatives and Australian government officials got together to make a plan. They wanted to fight financial crime and terrorism in a way never done before, by designing a new system for discovering, interpreting, and disrupting financial crime.

In May, the plan came to fruition with the formal launch of the Fintel Alliance, an initiative that is being billed as the world’s first private-public partnership aimed at combatting money laundering and terror financing. The alliance was established by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), which is Australia’s financial intelligence agency with regulatory responsibility for anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing.

Organizers say that one of the unique aspects of the alliance is that its diverse team members—representatives from the financial sector, nongovernmental organizations, law enforcement, and national security agencies—work cheek-by-jowl in AUSTRAC’s operations hubs in Sydney and Melbourne. 

This collaboration, they say, means agility—intelligence that is drawn from close to real-time information can be exchanged quickly, using the best tracking tools. This agility and cooperation enables the alliance to follow the money trail down holes, behind fraudulent facades, and wherever else it leads.

“We aim to make Australia the most difficult jurisdiction in the world for organized crime and terrorism financiers to operate in,” the group said when it was launched earlier this year. “Fintel Alliance will be relentless in pursuing serious financial crime, terrorism financing, and the profits of organized crime.”

The alliance has three operational goals: to help private sector partners identify and report suspicious transactions more easily; to help law enforcement partners arrest and prosecute criminals more quickly; and to work with academia to build knowledge and gather insight.

Under the alliance umbrella, industry leaders and government agencies will attempt to advance these goals by working together to design initiatives in the fight against crime. It will also focus on developing a more streamlined and efficient regulation framework in the areas of anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing.

The alliance is working on three projects this year: the identification of money mules, or intermediaries who transport stolen money to fraudsters; the exploitation of data from the Australian Cyber Online Reporting Network (ACORN); and the examination of the Panama Papers, the 11 million documents owned by a Panamanian law firm about offshore entities that were leaked in 2015. 

The group is also considering taking on two new projects: helping police investigate the financial networks of an organized crime syndicate, and developing public-private partnership capabilities to design strategies for disrupting national gangs.

There’s also the possibility of future expansion. The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency has joined as the first international alliance member, and alliance officials have said that they hope to work alongside more international counterparts in the future.