South Africa: Fusion Centre’s Intervention Recovers R659 Million in Proceeds of Crime

Swift intervention by the Financial Intelligence Centre’s Fusion Centre has seen government recover R659 million to the fiscus deemed to have been proceeds of crime.

Through the Fusion Centre, the FIC’s crime fighting public-public collaboration has secured several positive outcomes, including the preservation and recovery of pilfered public funds.

In a statement, the FIC said the two-year-old Fusion Centre had secured achievements in improving efficiency in financial investigations related to corruption, fraud, abuse of power and maladministration.

“In addition, the collective work of the Fusion Centre has resulted in the recovery of tax revenue, identification of fraud in the temporary economic relief offered to employers, identification of procurement fraud, and other related financial crimes.

“There were 19 criminal cases finalised in courts which attained convictions, with six of the matters being related to fraud and theft and 13 cases are tax related,” the FIC said.

The Fusion Centre, which was modelled on similar initiatives in some financial intelligence units across the globe, is an alliance of law enforcement authorities and investigative bodies in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster and the FIC.

Since its fast-tracked inception in 2020, the Fusion Centre has made significant inroads in the fight against financial crime using the public-public collaboration approach.

The initial primary focus for the Fusion Centre in 2020/21 was fraud, corruption, maladministration, money laundering and priority crimes related to the government’s COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts.

During the 2020/21 financial year, the work of the Fusion Centre, augmented by financial intelligence from the FIC, resulted in 276 criminal investigations relating to fraud and corruption.

The FIC said the remit of the multi-agency collaborators is to fast-track and deal with criminal and civil matters from the stages of identification to investigation, and ultimately, to litigation.

It said: “In future, the Fusion Centre will be looking to expand its scope beyond matters relating to financial crimes linked to government’s COVID-19 relief and containment interventions.”

To this end, the FIC said, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) has already reviewed the Fusion Centre’s performance in 2021 to understand how and where possible improvements could be made.

The DPME benchmarked the Fusion Centre against similar multi-agency operations in Australia (Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce); Kenya (Multi-Agency Team), and the United Kingdom (National Economic Crime Centre).

“This collaborative effort serves as a model for showing that diverse departments and entities can work together to solve complex and multi-pronged problems,” the FIC said.

The establishment of the Fusion Centre at the FIC is central to the South African government’s efforts to address money laundering and terrorist financing, which is in turn important for economic growth making the economy resilient to criminal exploitation.

The Fusion Centre was conceptualised as an operational hub to address priority financial crimes effectively and efficiently through a four-pronged approach consisting of prevention, detection, investigation, and resolution.

The FIC plays an essential role in the Fusion Centre, where the financial intelligence it develops is shared with law enforcement and investigative agency members. In turn, these partners use this intelligence in their investigations and applications for asset forfeiture.

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