Victoria Police arrest 5 males for alleged cash laundering rings

Australian bank accounts of Chinese students bought on the darknet have allegedly been used to smuggle tens of millions of dollars abroad.

The Victoria police have disrupted what they consider to be Australia’s largest money laundering operation, allegedly transferring tens of millions of dollars abroad through dormant bank accounts of international students who have since left the country.

Five people were arrested Thursday after a year-long joint investigation by Victoria Police, AUSTRAC and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission after search warrants were carried out on nine properties in Burwood, Box Hill, Blackburn, Caulfield North, Oakleigh and Endeavor Hill.

Police confiscated millions of dollars in cash, boxes of illegal tobacco, a cash desk, electrical appliances, jewelry, high quality clothing and athletic memorabilia.

Luxury vehicles were also confiscated, including a Porsche, BMW X5, Toyota Landcruiser and Mercedes Coupe C200.

A 32-year-old Burwood man, a 38-year-old Box Hill man, and a 32-year-old Blackburn man were all charged on Commonwealth money laundering and structuring charges, and government proceeds of crime.

You faced Melbourne Magistrates Court this morning.

A 36-year-old man from Endeavor Hills and a 31-year-old woman from Caulfield North have both been released and are expected to be charged on subpoena.

“Of the five people arrested, four were unknown to the police and had no history of criminal offenses,” Victoria Police Crime Command’s Deputy Commissioner Bob Hill said in a statement.

“These were people who lived quiet and unremarkable lives in the suburbs of Melbourne while running an elaborate criminal enterprise.”

Victoria Police opened an investigation last October after AUSTRAC released a lead on suspicious third-party deposits where one person deposits funds into another person’s account.

Police claim that some of the accounts were sold by their owners to the Criminal Syndicate for money laundering.

The Age reports that the syndicate allegedly bought identities and banking information from hundreds of Chinese students who returned home after studying in Australia.

“Money mules” would then be used to physically move the cash, using a single student account to conduct multiple transactions before moving to another, according to the newspaper.

Police will claim that a variety of different ATMs have been used across Melbourne to facilitate this process.

Detective Superintendent Geri Porter, head of the economic crime division at Victoria Police, told The Age that activity on suspect accounts had become less explainable as Covid-19 restrictions halted the flow of international students.

“This syndicate conducted a very mobile and agile operation and moved away from the traditional venues and outlets associated with money laundering,” she said.

The syndicate allegedly controlled more than 250 bank accounts that have sent more than $ 62 million in the past 12 months.

That makes it the largest money laundering operation to date to use the method in Australia, police say.

Mr. Hill stressed that money laundering was “not a victimless crime”. “These funds will be used to run criminal networks involved in a variety of types of crime, including the trafficking of drugs and illegal firearms,” ​​he said.

“Yesterday’s results show how criminal behavior evolves as law enforcement and investigation methodology adapts accordingly.

“The Victoria Police Department and their partners will do everything in their power to hold perpetrators accountable while ensuring that those involved in serious and organized crime do not get any financial or other benefit from their nefarious criminal activities . “

AUSTRAC’s national manager Jon Brewer said the arrests “demonstrated the importance of collaboration between AUSTRAC, financial industry partners and law enforcement agencies to prevent organized criminals from exploiting the financial system and harming the community.”

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