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International drug importation scheme cracked, trafficker convicted

Image of lines of cocaine

Case study summary

A law enforcement investigation identified a suspect, based in Australia, who was in receipt of drugs imported into Australia through the postal system.

AUSTRAC showed correlations between international funds transfers coinciding with drug importations from three countries – Brazil, Laos and France.  The suspect was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years imprisonment for attempting to possess or possessing a border controlled drug and recklessly dealing in the proceeds of crime.

The case study involves an established method of structuring international funds transfers to be below the perceived reporting threshold.

Information provided by AUSTRAC-regulated industry revealed:

  • multiple International Funds Transfer Instructions (IFTIs), paid for in cash amounts below the 10,000 Australian dollar threshold for transaction reporting
  • multiple IFTIs to countries of interest to authorities e.g. Brazil and Nigeria
  • use of false identification to conduct multiple IFTIs conducted on the same day
  • an individual using multiple addresses and telephone numbers to conduct IFTIs

Investigation outline

A suspect used false identification to lease a number of privately owned mailboxes. Drugs were imported into Australia in letters and packages, addressed to false identities at these mailboxes.

Law enforcement enquiries revealed the packages containing drugs were sent from Brazil, Laos and France.

  • one package from Brazil included a greeting card and two plastic bags which contained pure cocaine with a street value of between AUD3,000 and AUD7,500 and;
  • another package sent from Laos contained cocaine with an estimated street value between AUD73,000 and AUD101,000.

AUSTRAC analysis revealed that the suspect used multiple aliases to transfer funds overseas, via remittance service providers, with correlations between these money transfers and drug importations.

The suspect also drove from Sydney to Brisbane to obtain a package from another individual.

Upon returning to Sydney, law enforcement officers stopped and searched the individual's vehicle, revealing a backpack hidden in the tyre well of the boot. The backpack contained pellets containing heroin with an estimated street value of between AUD121,680 and AUD162,240.

During a search of the suspect's residential property, law enforcement officers located AUD61,150 in cash, and numerous mobile phones. Analysis of the individuals' mobile phone SIM cards revealed the suspect had been in frequent contact with individuals in Nigeria, Brazil, Ghana and Suriname.

The search also revealed a number of money transfer documents showing that the suspect used multiple aliases to transfer funds overseas via remittance service providers in various locations.

Industry contribution

Suspicious matter reports (SMRs) from remittance service providers revealed:

  • a higher than normal volume and frequency of international funds transfer instructions (IFTIs)
  • all outgoing IFTIs were paid for in cash, in structured amounts below the AUD10,000 cash reporting threshold
  • the recording of multiple address details and telephone numbers
  • addresses slightly altered or completely different to previous transactions.

AUSTRAC contribution

Analysis of AUSTRAC information identified the overseas beneficiary customers, and identified other aliases and identities suspected to be involved. AUSTRAC monitored the aliases used by the suspect.

AUSTRAC data showed a correlation between the transfers of funds to Laos, Brazil and Nigeria and the importation of drugs.

Our records also showed that:

  • all outgoing IFTIs were conducted via remittance service providers in various locations
  • IFTIs were paid for in cash amounts below the AUD10,000 threshold and;
  • multiple transactions were conducted in one day.

Our records also linked an alias to a drivers licence number, which was linked to an additional six aliases of the suspect. All six used the drivers licence as a form of identification. Over an eight-month period, 11 SMRs were submitted by remittance service providers which mentioned the drivers licence number.

Outcome

The suspect possessed or attempted to possess two kilograms of cocaine and heroin with an estimated street value of between AUD322,180 and AUD493,240.

On appeal, the suspect was convicted of the following offences:

  • three counts of attempting to possess marketable quantities of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs contrary to section 307.6(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995
  • one count of possessing a marketable quantity of a border controlled drug reasonably suspected to have been imported contrary to section 307.9(1) of the Criminal Code Act
  • one count of recklessly dealing in the proceeds of crime, greater than $50,000 contrary to section 400.5(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995.

The suspect was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years imprisonment with a total non-parole period of six years and 10 months.

Summary

Offence

Drug trafficking

Money laundering

Fraud (identity)

Customer Individual
Industry Remittance services
Channel Physical
Report type

IFTIs

SMRs

Jurisdiction International – Brazil, Laos, and Nigeria
Designated Service Remittance services

Figure 1 – False identities used to import drugs into Australia

Last modified: 16/10/2015 16:28