NEW technologies are the biggest challenge facing countries trying to enforce money laundering and terrorism financing laws on a global scale.
Federal Attorney-General Department secretary Roger Wilkins said the hundreds of "cloud-friendly devices" at the Asia-Pacific Group meeting on money laundering in Brisbane demonstrated a technology penetration that was "unthinkable even a decade ago".
He said, during his welcoming address, that a conference like this enabled law enforcement agencies to foster co-operation and share their experiences.
"Such technological advancement is no more in evidence than in the capacity of individuals to transfer money across the globe almost instantaneously or in the ability to use e-currencies to transfer or launder funds," he said.
"Where such transfers involved the proceeds of crime, such as the profits of drug lords and people smuggling rackets, the challenge to any country trying to act alone is immense.
"Such a challenge is further compounded where formal processes to trace money and gather evidence fail to keep pace with the methods employed by organised criminal networks.
"As the movement of money across borders can happen so quickly, it is important for all countries to have strong anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism laws in place so that particular counties do not become safe havens for criminals and their money."
Mr Wilkins told the conference the global anti-money laundering system was "only as strong as the jurisdiction with the most lax laws and the weakest implementation of those laws".
He said strengthening those weaker links was critical in the fight against trans-national crime.
"These crimes are very complex. They are committed by organised criminal enterprises that are constantly changing the way they operate to stay in front of law enforcement in our countries and that is why combating these crimes is about collective challenge," he said.
"Money laundering is an enabler for serious an organised crime and the APG plays an important role in the global fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and financing of proliferation."
Mr Wilkins used an example of Chinese and Australian collaboration to emphasise his point.
He said two Chinese men engaged to build low-cost residential housing in China had instead transferred most of the public money to Australia to buy real estate in Queensland.
Mr Wilkins said Australian investigations, after a referral from Chinese prosecutors, traced the money through numerous property purchases and located assets worth almost $6 million.
He said those stolen funds were restrained under Australian proceeds of crime legislation and most of it returned to China.
"It may be a well worn line that follow the money is vital to effectively combating serious and organised crime but that doesn't make it any less true," he said.
The conference continues until Friday.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.