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Australia to extend money laundering laws

[SYDNEY] The Australian government is reviving long-stalled plans to extend anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing laws to capture lawyers, accountants, real estate agents and jewellers, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said.

The law reforms have been repeatedly shelved since mid-2007 after opposition from some of the affected sectors - most notably the legal profession.

The first tranche of the anti-money laundering laws were put in place a decade ago to compel banks, fund managers and casinos to report the source of their money flows, but the anticipated follow-up to cover other sectors did not eventuate.

The Australian government is preparing to release proposals to the public for consultation.

"The first step in this process will be the release of industry consultation papers by the Attorney General's Department, which is expected to happen before the end of the year," Mr Keenan said in a statement.

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The professions captured by the extended laws will have to conduct a risk assessment on their businesses, develop a compliance program, train staff, report suspicious transactions and any cash payments over A$10,000 (S$10,238).

Lawyers have long argued that the extension of the laws could clash with their obligation to respect legal professional privilege.

New Zealand has expedited the second phase of its anti-money laundering regime in response to the revelations in the Panama Papers.

The New Zealand government launched an accelerated three-week consultation on the proposed extension of the laws, which closes this week.


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