19th June 2013: ANAO Audit of AUSTRAC

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has an important role in financial intelligence and anti-money laundering initiatives in Australia.


Monash University’s Andrew Zammit tipped me off to an Australian National Audit Office audit of AUSTRAC, available here.


ANAO’s audit opinion has some interesting reflections on AUSTRAC’s financial intelligence function:

  • Partner agency access to AUSTRAC data should be regularly reviewed by AUSTRAC personnel.
  • Processing time targets and processing backlogs for financial intelligence assessment should be monitored by AUSTRAC management.
  • Key Performance Indicators and structured feedback from partner agencies should be developed for financial intelligence.


These are a mix of high-level strategic planning; operational review; and partner corporate governance. The ANAO audit opinion is an interesting read on AUSTRAC’s organisational evolution — its financial intelligence methodologies remain confidential.


For some possible answers, we can look to the current literature in intelligence studies on structured analytic techniques and methodologies. The US-based Central Intelligence Agency released A Tradecraft Primer in 2009 (PDF). Ricahrd J. Heuer Jr and Randolph H. Pherson’s Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis (Washington DC: CQ Press College, 2010), and Sarah Miller Beebe and Randolph H. Pherson’s Cases in Intelligence Analysis: Structured Analytic Techniques in Action (Washington DC: CQ Press College, 2011) are also excellent tradecraft primers.

16th June 2013: ICIJ’s Offshore Tax Havens Database

For the past few months the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has been releasing information about offshore tax havens. ICIJ’s database was leaked from two wealth management firms: Portcullis TrustNet (Singapore) and Commonwealth Trust Limited (British Virgin Islands). The ICIJ chose La Nación de Costa Rica to analyse the data which reveals how offshore companies and trusts are used for tax minimisation, tax avoidance, and possible money laundering.

Now, the ICIJ has released the database for public analysis.


The ICIJ’s database arrived with perfect timing for me: I was thinking about some PhD-related new chapters. In 2005, I wrote a Masters essay (PDF) on international governance for anti-money laundering initiatives. I was re-reading Nick Kochan’s The Washing Machine: Money, Crime & Terror In The Offshore System (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co., 2006), and eyeing off my copy of Jeffrey Robinson’s The Sink: How Banks, Lawyers and Accountants Finance Terrorism and Crime – And Why Governments Can’t Stop Them (London: Constable & Robinson, 2003).


Now, thanks to the ICIJ, I have some data on offshore tax havens to examine.