The Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) has recorded 134 suspicious transactions reports from 2015 to June last year, representing a 65 percent increase from the previous year where a total of 81 were recorded.
Out of these cases, 37 are on suspicion of tax evasion, corruption, illegal externalisation of funds, money laundering and terrorist financing, among other crimes.
FIA has since forwarded the cases to law enforcement agencies for further action.
According to FIA’s ninth annual report for the year signed by its director general Atuweni Juwayeyi-Agbermodji, the agency said suspicious transactions reports were mainly from the banking sector at 99 percent of the total received while only one percent was reported from the insurance sector.
“The agency conducted investigations with Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) which exposed a scheme involving Chinese business persons who were using fake MRA [Malawi Revenue Authority] documents and bogus traders as beneficiaries,” reads the report in part.
The report shows that FIA investigations established that over $15 million (about K11 billion) was involved in this syndicate based on the sampled transactions analysed from six major commercial banks.
“There is a growing trend of forged cheques presented at banks in order to steal from unsuspecting account holders,” the report reads.
Anti-money laundering expert and lawyer Jai Banda has commended FIA for busting the laundering syndicate.
“The agency should intensify civic education for financial institutions to report cases and it needs to spell out consequences of not reporting suspicious cases which are very clear in the Anti-Money Laundering laws,” said Banda.
He also said the agency needs to do more on curbing illegal externalisation of funds, which is currently on the rise in the country and affects foreign currency reserves.
FIA has since urged banks to be on the lookout for suspicious customers, especially those requiring express clearance of cheques, payment to third parties with unknown business or relationship to the drawer, unavailability of signatories to confirm cheque payment, among others.