The Australian financial crimes watchdog AUSTRAC and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) are not currently investigating online subscription service OnlyFans, despite reports to the contrary.
These reports have suggested that the departments have been looking into OnlyFans over concerns the platform is facilitating illegal criminal activity such as drug trafficking and money laundering,
For those unfamiliar with the platform, OnlyFans is a subscription service that allows users to sell content to fans.
While it can be used for all kinds of professions, it is popular among the sex work community as it allows users to sell NSFW content.
Earlier this week News Corp publications alleged that OnlyFans was being investigated by the AFP and AUSTRAC in relation to the claims. However, Gizmodo Australia now understands this to be untrue.
Speaking exclusively to Gizmodo Australia, University of New South Wales professor Michael Salter — who was quoted by News Corp — confirmed that the Australian government and law enforcement agencies have not been involved in his investigations.
“I’ve been working with an overseas non-government organisation on this issue, and at times we’ve needed to engage government agencies in North America,” he told Gizmodo Australia.
“This has not involved the Australian government or Australian law enforcement.”
While it is accurate to say that Salter is investigating child exploitation on the platform, this work has apparently not been done with the help or knowledge of any Australian government, despite News Corp’s claims to the contrary.
When approached by Gizmodo Australia, the AFP provided a lengthy statement on its response to money laundering. According to the AFP, this was the same statement given to The Australian.
The AFP did not confirm that it is investigating or monitoring OnlyFans at this time. However, Gizmodo Australia understands that it is not.
“Organised crime networks are highly opportunistic and adaptive. The AFP is aware of emerging avenues that criminal organisations may use to launder money gained through crime,” the AFP told Gizmodo Australia.
“Australia has strong financial regulations that forces criminals to continually explore alternate means of trying to legitimise their money outside of the formal banking sector.”
The AFP confirmed it regularly works alongside AUSTRAC to help mitigate the threat of money laundering in the age of the internet.
“The AFP works closely with our regulator and Financial Intelligence Unit (AUSTRAC) in understanding significant risks posed by emerging payment platforms and financial technology. In partnership with our stakeholders we will continue to target the highest risk sectors and those that seek to abuse them,” the AFP said, with no direct mention of OnlyFans.
While AUSTRAC provided a statement to News Corp relating to business’ anti-money laundering obligations, it did not mention OnlyFans by name, or express any immediate concern relating to the website.
“Criminals will always seek to exploit the financial system to launder their money and harm the community. That is why it is so important that regulated businesses take their anti-money laundering obligations seriously,” AUSTRAC said in a statement provided to Gizmodo.
According to NCA Newswire, the AFP and AUSTRAC are reportedly particularly concerned by the fact that banks and regulators are unable to confirm who exactly receives the payments made on the site. However, neither organisation would confirm this to Gizmodo Australia.
This is particularly concerning for banks, which are held liable for any transactions that breach Australian anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws (AML/CTF).
Basically, banks are responsible for making sure payments being made by Australian customers are not suspicious, which becomes particularly difficult when the recipient of funds cannot be found.
Interestingly, Westpac was forced to pay $1.3 billion to AUSTRAC last year for breaching these laws after it found the bank didn’t adequately flag suspicious transactions that were eventually linked to child exploitation materials.
Gizmodo Australia understands that OnlyFans does, in fact, have a duty to report any suspicious activity as per AML/CTF laws, but is not currently being investigated or monitored for failing to do so.
“Where an internationally-based business does not meet the criteria to have a geographical link to Australia, but interact with regulated business in Australia, those regulated business will have obligations under the AML/CTF Act,” AUSTRAC told Gizmodo.
However, it must be stressed that both the AFP and AUSTRAC did not mention any investigations into OnlyFans, and Salter confirmed that his own work has not had any involvement with any Australian government organisations.
In a statement provided to The Australian, OnlyFans confirmed that it is in regular contact with the Australian E-Safety Commissioner and reports any suspicious accounts to relevant authorities.
“OnlyFans is committed to the safety and security of its users, and its Terms of Service being upheld,” the company said in a statement.
“We use systems and software that are not only compliant but go over and above current regulations.
“We report any adult material involving children found on our site to the relevant enforcement authorities.”
Gizmodo Australia has contacted OnlyFans for comment.