Address to opening of Financial Crimes and Money Laundering Seminar 2011

  • Judith Collins

Welcome and thank you for inviting me to join you today.

Gathered here this morning are representatives from five countries, 16 government agencies and over 20 private sector organisations.

The international dimension of this seminar reflects not only how seriously our jurisdictions view financial crime, but also how financial crime does not respect borders.

As long as there has been organised crime, there have been ever more complex money trails that have reached ever further around the world.

Here in New Zealand we might be one of the most isolated countries on earth, but that doesn’t mean we are beyond the tentacles of organised crime.

In fact, our isolation might mean we are seen as more relaxed about security than bigger countries and a more attractive proposition for those who are moving, cleaning and disposing of the proceeds of crime.

Money is the fuel of organised crime.

It provides the motivation to set up networks and take risks in criminal offending.

As with any business, funds are invested in growing the business.

That might take the form of investment in the raw materials for the production of methamphetamine or other drugs.

It might be providing incentives for criminal activity to those loyal to the organisation, or to obtain sophisticated counter-surveillance equipment with which to intercept law enforcement communications.

Perhaps more worryingly, it can also be used to bribe law enforcement, officials and politicians, to subvert the system from within.

Here in New Zealand there is increasing convergence between criminals and professionals involved in a blend of legitimate and illegitimate businesses.

They partner with businesses in finance, transport, private security, entertainment, real estate and various trade related industries.

These partnerships help facilitate their real businesses - violence, extortion, drug dealing, fraud and money laundering.

This new level of sophistication, utilising complex business and legal structures, technology and legal and illegal business activities, is presenting a major challenge to law enforcement agencies such as the Police and OFCANZ.

It is a challenge Police are meeting with specialised workgroups, such as the Financial Intelligence Unit and Assets Recovery Unit, smart use of technology and the close co-operation of our law enforcement partners here and overseas.

In this fast-evolving area, seminars such as today are an excellent opportunity to compare notes and develop ideas.

During the seminar you’ll see presentations on terrorism financing, how domestic and international law enforcement agencies use the valuable financial intelligence reported to the Financial Intelligence Unit, emerging money laundering trends and some illuminating case studies of serious crime. 

You’ll hear from representatives from the Financial Crime Group, the Serious Fraud Office, OFCANZ, legal experts, banking compliance experts, AUSTRAC and more.
Eradicating organised crime and the misery in its wake is one of the major law and order priorities of the New Zealand Government.

We have introduced new legislation to give Police the upper hand against organised crime.

This included new forfeiture legislation that no longer requires a conviction to trigger forfeiture proceedings for criminal proceeds - it will be sufficient to prove on the balance of probabilities that a person has unlawfully benefited from criminal offending.

Police established the Assets Recovery Unit that I mentioned earlier to locate and seize the proceeds of crime.

New Zealand Police, with the help of everyone here has, to date achieved a number of successes in disrupting financial and financially motivated crime. 

Using the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act the Financial Crime Group has:
- obtained forfeiture orders for assets valued at an estimated $6.2 million which includes 20 cars, 12 motorcycles and six residential properties.

- an estimated $38.5 million in assets currently under restraining orders which includes five boats, 42 residential properties, 29 motorcycles and 66 cars.

When it comes to detecting the money trails of criminal organisations, the Police rely a great deal on help from the financial services sector.

The information provided through suspicious transaction reports is crucial to many serious crime and asset recovery cases.

The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 enhances New Zealand's Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism regime and, most importantly, our ability to detect and deter serious crime. 

It also bolsters New Zealand's international reputation and demonstrates our commitment to the Financial Action Task Force.

Strong public and private co-operation is integral to ensuring the success of this legislation, and to ensuring New Zealand maintains its obligation to our friends overseas of high levels of compliance.

Police have an excellent relationship with many of the bigger players in the financial services sector.

These organisations are only too aware of the potential for reputational risk if they are in any way seen to be facilitating criminal activity, and as such are extremely co-operative.

The buy-in is not currently so strong from other parts of the sector, however. Looking ahead, Police will be working to ensure there are no weak links that could be exploited.

One of New Zealand’s biggest assets internationally is its reputation for being corruption free.

We must do everything we can to keep it that way – and I am confident that we can.

We have strong legislation in place that sends a signal to organised crime that in this country, crime literally doesn’t pay.

We have dedicated people in our law enforcement agencies who are 100 per cent committed to disrupting the activities of organised crime.

And we have strong partnerships with agencies overseas that widens the net and ensures a consistently high standard of legislation, expertise and enforcement.

Thank you, again, for inviting me to join you today to open this seminar.

I would like to thank you all for your work in making New Zealand a safer and better place for law-abiding people, and a difficult target for organised crime.