Experts at the three-day Southern African Development Community (SADC) Multi-Stakeholder Transnational Organised Crime Conference held at Swakopmund last week stressed the urgent need for collaborative action against various forms of financial crime.
FirstRand Bank’s Melvin Yoogolingam highlighted the growing issues of scams and electronic service payments, and their impact on the financial sector.
“Kidnapping, business email compromise, and the misuse of digital channels are three key threats we’re seeing emerge,” he said.
Gregory Singh from the South African Banking Risk Information Centre explained the complexities of the virtual asset environment.
“The banking world is moving into what we call real-time transactions. Real-time transactions allow for convenience, but also bring new challenges,” he said, while stressing the need for better understanding, policing and regulation of digital transactions.
Singh proposed a three-pronged approach to these challenges, encompassing increased awareness of digital assets, enhanced cooperation and information sharing and building capacity for thorough investigations.
“The way forward involves processing concessions, knowing your client and understanding whether he’s going to be the actual victim or not,” Singh said.
In a similar vein, international money transfer service Western Union’s Henry Schomper emphasised the importance of financial tracking in fighting crime.
“Every single organised crime doesn’t occur without money. If you don’t follow the money, you are losing 75% of your investigation,” he said.
Schomper noted the importance of public-private partnerships in addressing financial crimes and the increasing prominence of South Africa as a hub for terrorism financing.
“Terrorism financing is becoming more and more important in our region. South Africa is being established as a hub for terror financing, facilitating events in northern Africa,” he said.
All agreed on collaboration among stakeholders in combating the rising tide of financial crime.
“We are heavily reliant on law-enforcement intelligence. We need public-private partnerships to make investigations into financial flows much more targeted,” Schomper said.
According to the moderators, the presentations offered a roadmap towards creating a safer and more transparent financial environment, highlighting the necessity for increased vigilance, shared intelligence and cross-border collaboration.
The conference concluded on Wednesday, and in his closing remarks Namibian Police inspector general Joseph Shikongo, who is also the chairperson of the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO), noted the significance of the strategies and recommendations put forward.
“As a region, we cannot afford to continue playing second fiddle to criminal syndicates, hence our collective goal is to decimate these criminal enterprises and syndicates perpetuating illicit activities in southern Africa,” he said.
The recommendations will be submitted to fellow SADC police chiefs.
The conference recognised the importance of synergy in combating transnational crime, with Shikongo urging delegates to continue the “spirit of collaboration and working together” against common enemies.
He further called for an increase in the sharing of information and joint operations across agencies and sectors. He highlighted the importance of harnessing modern technologies, including artificial intelligence, to counter criminals’ advanced strategies.