13 May 2024

ATO's Serious Financial Crime Taskforce receives training to combat crypto crime

| James Day
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The J5 comprises the ATO, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Fiscale Inlichtingen- en Opsporingsdienst (Netherlands), HM Revenue & Customs (UK), and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (USA). Photo: ATO.

More than 50 members of Australia’s Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) have received crypto asset investigation training from specialists across five leading jurisdictions of global tax enforcement.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) brought together its partners under the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement (J5) to give its SFCT an opportunity to explore real-world case studies and emerging technologies to support the identification, investigation and prosecution of cyber targets related to tax crime and money laundering.

The SFCT investigates the most serious and complex forms of financial crime that present the highest risk to Australia’s tax and superannuation system. It also works with J5 agencies to gather information, share intelligence, conduct operations and build the capacity of tax crime enforcement officials.

With the support of the J5 specialists, SFCT participants enhanced their skills in crypto asset analysis and investigation, and increased their knowledge of the technologies and tools to support this.

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This training opportunity between the J5 and SFCT was held as crypto assets are increasingly utilised in criminal activities, including to launder the proceeds of tax crime. According to the ATO, criminals are drawn to trading in crypto assets due to perceived anonymity and the ease and speed with which they can be traded anywhere in the world.

ATO Deputy Commissioner John Ford said the ATO had an expert team of staff who were equipped to detect and identify tax crime activities, and these capabilities continued to strengthen.

“Specifically, this training has further enhanced SFCT partner agencies’ understanding of the resources and platforms available to share leads, support case development and further enhance information-sharing around crypto assets,” Deputy Commissioner Ford said.

IRS Criminal Investigation chief Guy Ficco said the agency had developed specialised cybercrime units 10 years ago, and prided itself on being able to share its expertise with partners across the globe to dismantle criminal organisations at the root.

“Global problems require global solutions and participating in the SFCT training serves as an opportunity to increase cooperation and collaboration,” Mr Ficco said.

The ATO said this opportunity showcased how it shared experience and expertise at both the transnational and domestic levels, tackling organised criminals and tax cheats who tried to manipulate the tax and superannuation systems for personal gain.

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