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Suspicious transactions revealed Colombian cocaine importations

Image of lines of cocaine

An Australian law enforcement agency arrested and charged two suspects for importing nearly AUD2 million worth of cocaine into Australia from South America. The international investigation involved Australian, German, and New Zealand law enforcement agencies. AUSTRAC information assisted the investigation by linking the suspects to the purchase of the drugs and the methods used to pay for and import the drugs.

A reporting entity submitted a suspect transaction report (SUSTR) to AUSTRAC highlighting the following activity:

  • One of the suspects sent six international funds transfers from five different branches of the same remitter over a one-month period.
  • All transfers were for amounts between AUD1,300 and AUD4,200. The total amount transferred was more than AUD20,000.
  • The funds were all sent to the same beneficiary in Colombia who collected them from three different locations.
  • It appeared as if the suspect may have split the funds transfers into several transactions in attempt to avoid transaction reporting requirements by establishing a number of bank accounts at various banks.

The suspects, originally from New Zealand, flew to Australia to organise the cocaine importation. They transferred funds to Colombia to pay for the cocaine which was hidden in industrial equipment to be shipped to Australia. They also spent over AUD4,000 on arrangements with couriers, mobile phones and apartments, to avoid detection.

German and Australian law enforcement agencies cooperated to intercept the packages in Germany and confirm the presence of the cocaine. Listening devices were attached to the packages which were monitored by Australian law enforcement until they were delivered to the suspects’ address in Australia. Telephone calls made by the suspects were also tapped and they were heard discussing the drug shipments.

Both suspects were arrested at their Australian hide-out and charged with attempting to possess a marketable quantity of an unlawfully imported border control drug. The suspects were each sentenced to 11 years imprisonment, with one to be deported to New Zealand upon release.

Offence

  • Drug importation

Customer

  • Individual

Industry

  • Banking (ADIs)
  • Remittance services

Channel

  • Electronic
  • Physical

Report type

  • IFTI
  • SUSTR

Jurisdiction

  • International – Germany, New Zealand, South America

Designated service

  • Account and deposit taking services
  • Remittance services (money transfers)

Indicators

  • Multiple international funds transfers conducted at numerous branches over a short period of time to the same overseas beneficiary
  • Multiple international funds transfers below AUD10,000 to avoid reporting obligations
  • International funds transfers to a high-risk jurisdiction
Last modified: 30/07/2015 15:36