Topic: Family Law
As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, Australia has successfully emerged from the second wave and has the virus under control. However, the effects of COVID-19 are still prevalent - our economy has yet to recover after plunging into our first recession in nearly 30 years and we are still experiencing economic turbulence.
The bleak economic outlook together with the backdrop of health concerns, financial pressure, social isolation and other mental stressors has sparked anxiety within many families. This has led to an increase in urgent applications to the Family Court.
The court system has been quick to respond.
If you are in midst of a Family Law Court case, we have the following recommendations that could assist you:
Obtain Professional Advice
Consider whether you need to obtain legal or forensic accounting advice prior to or during your case. This may assist with your case but may also assist with any future legal, tax or accounting matters/advice at the conclusion/settlement of your matter.
Collect your financial information in order to be prepared for disclosure
Information you may need for disclosure will include bank statements, credit card statements, personal income tax returns, business’ financial accounts and income tax returns, financial/loan agreements, shares and property certifications, Trust Deeds and Corporate Secretarial Records. These documents will assist you in the examination of asset ownership and income movements which eases the process of completing your Form 13.
Preserve your data
If you have electronic data that you’d like to present in your matter, consult a qualified Forensic Technology professional as part of the initial planning process before you take any action with the data. Getting forensic experts involved early in your matter can identify critical evidence whilst also providing significant cost and time savings. Digital sources of evidence can be quickly identified, triaged, and specialist actions subsequently taken to get you the answers you need.
Proper preservation is independently verifiable and can allow you to continue using your devices in the meantime.
Deal with your data
BDO’s forensic team is highly experienced in all elements of forensic investigations inclusive of family law disputes. We can fully manage the overhead of digital evidence handling, from identifying and preserving your sources of evidence, through to analysing data and presenting it in a user-friendly format - so that it can be incorporated into your court file, and ultimately present that evidence in court should it be required.
Update your valuations
Valuations prepared prior to COVID-19 may no longer be relevant, making it hard to resolve property matters when the value of the property pool is uncertain. Ensure your business and marital assets are appropriately valued to take into account the latest impacts of COVID-19 and economic uncertainty.
If you have any queries or need further support with your family law case, please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialists.
Forensic accounting specialists
“The use of BDO Forensic and the findings from their valuation report put me in a very strong position to negotiate a fair and best possible outcome for my divorce”
BDO Family law client
Latest updates and advice from Australia’s regulatory bodies
This time of year, we reflect on the year that was and it was definitely a year that has tested resilience globally in business, and in humanity. It is safe to say that humanity needs to take a long deep look at itself and that this year has highlighted the need for regulation, as without it where would we be? With this in mind, we take a look at the regulatory landscape as we move into a promising period of a COVID-19 vaccine. Regulation will continue to be a focus in the ‘new norm’ and its emphasis will be on poor corporate behaviours.
Whistleblowing remains a key mechanism for the detection of misconduct and is an important mechanism to help keep your business out of the regulatory spotlight.
In an environment of increased fraud and misconduct, Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC) continues to advise that responding to reports of misconduct and whistleblower reports remains a priority, and any business involved in such conduct will have its governance arrangements scrutinised. If you are caught by the Corporations Act - please review your governance arrangements in relation to whistleblowing.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) will continue to place significant focus on allegations of “serious non-compliance with workplace laws” including complaints about JobKeeper. With hospitality coming back online there is an increase in hospitality providers not paying staff award wages. The FWO has indicated there will be an increase in audits.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has a continued focus on enforcement related to stimulus fraud but the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) is focusing efforts on:
- Cybercrime (technology-enabled crime) affecting the tax and superannuation systems
- Offshore tax evasion
- Illegal phoenix activity.
Strong ATO audit activity will continue into 2021.
AUSTRAC released its annual report, which demonstrated the strength of the FINTEL alliance it has created and which continues to grow. FINTEL is a world-first private-public partnership, aimed at fighting money-laundering, terrorism financing and other serious crimes. The agency recently received $100million in additional funding to help bolster its efforts, on the back of the largest fine in Australian corporate history to Westpac - a $1.3 billion civil penalty for more than 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws. Westpac's fine is an Australian record, not only for money laundering breaches but for corporate misconduct in general.
The prosecution hammered home the need for reporting entities to:
- Register with the regulator if they are captured by the laws
- Set up and maintain adequate systems to monitor for money laundering and terrorism financing risks
- Know their customers by verifying their identity
- Report any suspicious transactions to the regulator within specified time periods
- Keep appropriate records of transactions.
AUSTRAC is the regulator with teeth and one that will bite if you fall foul of the law. The effectiveness is such that it is also creating a slight burden for the regulator as it experiences an influx of work sorting through, in many cases, average reports from businesses fearful of breaching the law with an increase of 258% in reporting.
Whilst over-reporting will never be an issue, the quality of the reports is what creates the problem. A reporting entity must submit a suspicious matter report under AML/CTF Act if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction may be related to money laundering, terrorism financing, tax evasion, proceeds of crime or any other serious crimes under Australian law.
Training staff in what constitutes suspicious behaviour and training AML officers on what constitutes reasonable grounds should be an important part of any good AML/CTF program.
In the news
At the top of this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), New Zealand scores 87 out of 100, making it the leading country fighting corruption in the region and second across the globe. New Zealand is followed closely by Singapore and Australia, with scores of 85 and 77 respectively. Asia, however, is a bit of a mixed bag, depending on the region.
Since then, COVID-19 has exploded into a global pandemic - and the dangers of corruption have also multiplied in the health sector, as reported by healthcare workers around the world, with reports showing an increased burden on healthcare systems and impeding access to treatment and personal protective equipment (PPE).
An AML bill introduced last October has passed the Senate, but without last month’s amendment to include real estate agents, accountants, lawyers. Australia’s Senate has voted down a legislative amendment that would have required the government subjected real estate agents, accountants, lawyers and high-value goods dealers to AML legislation within six months.
A Commonwealth Bank loan officer who allegedly blew $3.75 million in stolen money on cocaine and a lavish lifestyle has been charged more than a decade after the bank failed to report his suspected crime spree.
As Westpac goes under an independent review of its risk management, the Australian bank regulator and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), said on Tuesday it was forcing Westpac Banking Corp to raise its cash reserves after it fell short of prudential standards – making it the second enforcement action for the country’s number three lender in a year.
Criminals target poker machines in NSW amid pandemic: Money laundering during five months of COVID-19 restrictions drove a $305 million increase in poker machine profits – a spike that experts say shows the need for a gambling card.
Pawnbrokers, payday lenders and other non-bank reporting entities have been urged to review their financial crime controls, as the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) broadens its supervision and enforcement crackdown. The country’s largest payday lender, listed pawnbroker Cash Converters, is the latest reporting entity to be referred to AUSTRAC’s enforcement division for suspected long-running anti-money laundering (AML) failures.
If you have any queries or need any support please do not hesitate to reach out to our specialists.