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Cash courier transferred millions of dollars to Hong Kong for money laundering syndicate

Image of man at ATM

A law enforcement agency identified a suspect believed to be working as a cash courier for a suspected money laundering syndicate. AUSTRAC data revealed that the suspect and additional cash couriers were laundering millions of dollars internationally for the syndicate.

Three suspects were arrested and received sentences ranging from 11 months imprisonment, a 12-month intensive corrections order and a 12-month good behaviour bond. Authorities also seized AUD543,000 cash.

Analysis of AUSTRAC data revealed that suspect A and additional cash couriers were depositing and transferring millions of dollars internationally for the syndicate.

The syndicate used the following method to move funds:

  • Suspect B instructs suspect A to open two business accounts. Suspect A is made the sole signatory for the accounts.
  • When suspect B takes possession of illicit cash, she contacts suspect A, who then flies interstate to meet her.
  • Suspect A meets suspect B at a designated location where suspect B provides suspect A with the cash to be deposited and instructions on where the funds are to be transferred overseas.
  • Suspect A deposits the cash into one of the business accounts. She makes several deposits across a number of different bank branches on the same day.
  • On suspect B's instructions, suspect A transfers the funds overseas to accounts in Hong Kong.
  • Afterwards, suspect A gives the receipts for the deposits and transfers to suspect B.

AUSTRAC information identified a significant spike in suspect A's financial activity over a six-month period:

  • During the first month of activity, the business accounts held by suspect A received more than AUD430,000 in cash deposits, by third parties in various states.
  • In the first two months of activity, suspect A sent international funds transfer instructions (IFTIs) totalling more than AUD2.3 million to businesses located in Hong Kong.
  • Although suspect A's business accounts appeared to be receiving significant amounts of money from various sources and then transferring the funds overseas on their behalf, the business was not registered with AUSTRAC as a remittance dealer.

Prior to the transaction activity described above, AUSTRAC had recorded minimal financial transaction activity undertaken by suspect A.

The subsequent three months saw the business account set up by suspect A receive cash deposits worth more than AUD4.8 million.

Suspicious matter reports (SMRs) submitted to AUSTRAC highlighted the extent of financial activity related to suspect A and his business account. Some of these details included:

  • Each month suspect A's business account received hundreds of cash deposits and electronic domestic transfers. Some cash deposits were undertaken by third parties. These deposits and transfers totalled more than AUD1 million per month.
  • Typically, around AUD200,000 of the total deposits each month was deposited in structured cash amounts of less than AUD10,000. The remainder of the cash deposits were for larger amounts ranging from AUD10,000 to AUD70,000.
  • A small portion of the funds was then debited from the accounts through cash withdrawals or domestic transfers.
  • The majority of the funds were transferred via IFTIs to businesses located in Hong Kong, some of which were thought to be foreign exchange companies. These IFTIs ranged in value from AUD10,000 to AUD98,000
  • The cash withdrawals, domestic transfers and IFTIs were usually conducted soon after a deposit was made into the account. This activity appeared to be inconsistent with the customer's established profile.

Three suspects were arrested by law enforcement and AUD543,000 cash was seized. Suspect A and B pleaded guilty to dealing in property reasonably suspected to be the proceeds of crime greater than AUD100,000.

Suspect A was sentenced to 11 months imprisonment, suspect B was given a 12-month intensive corrections order, and an additional suspect was given a 12-month good behaviour bond.

Offence Money laundering
Customer
  • Business
  • Individual
Industry Banking (ADIs)
Channel
  • Electronic
  • Physical
Report type
  • IFTI
  • SCTR
  • SMR
Jurisdiction
  • Domestic
  • International – Hong Kong
Designated service Account and deposit-taking services
Indicators
  • Frequent cash deposits occurring at different branches on the same day
  • International funds transfers to overseas businesses similar in total value to recently received cash deposits
  • Structuring of cash deposits below AUD10,000 to avoid reporting obligations
  • Sudden increase in financial activity inconsistent with individual's transaction history
  • Third parties making regular cash deposits into a business account
  • Withdrawals conducted quickly after deposits
Last modified: 30/07/2015 15:36