Australian authorities have levied charges against seven individuals for their alleged involvement in a Chinese money laundering syndicate operating within Australia, which is suspected of laundering over US$140 million, as announced by the Australian Federal Police on Thursday.
These charges follow a 14-month-long investigation conducted by several law enforcement agencies, which the police labeled the most intricate money laundering investigation in the nation’s history. The investigation primarily focused on a group operating the Changjiang Currency Exchange, a foreign exchange company with 12 branches across the country.
Changjiang Currency Exchange has facilitated transactions exceeding $6 billion in the past three years, with the majority being legitimate. Nevertheless, authorities claim that the company facilitated a platform for organized criminals to move illegally obtained funds in and out of Australia.
The syndicate purportedly instructed its criminal clients on how to create counterfeit invoices, bank statements, and other fabricated business documents. The laundered funds are believed to have originated from illicit activities such as cyber scams, trafficking in illegal goods, and violent crimes.
Authorities contend that Changjiang Currency Exchange profited from each illicit funds transaction it conducted, charging criminals higher fees compared to individuals with lawful funds. Additionally, the company evaded its tax obligations on legitimate remittances and other sources of income.
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has initiated regulatory action against Changjiang Currency Exchange.
The members of the syndicate seemingly amassed significant illegal wealth through their criminal activities, living lavish lifestyles that didn’t escape the notice of law enforcement.
In addition to dining at upscale restaurants and indulging in expensive wines and sake, the suspects traveled on private jets, drove vehicles valued at over US$250,000, and resided in opulent homes, one of which was valued at more than US$6 million, according to Deputy Commissioner Stephen Dametto.
Suspected assets, including houses, investment properties, luxury vehicles, and other valuable items, have been seized by the Criminal Assets Forfeiture Task Force (CACT).
Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Clinton Sims expressed, “The ABF’s capabilities extend beyond drug interception at our borders, and we take pride in providing crucial resources to dismantle this criminal syndicate and halt their illegal operations in one of the largest-ever money laundering investigations.”
Over the past 12 months, investigations conducted by an Australian Federal Police task force specializing in combating large-scale money laundering have resulted in the arrest or indictment of 26 individuals and the seizure of more than US$170 million.