AUSTRAC initiated an investigation into a money laundering syndicate suspected of moving large amounts of cash through a complex network of Australian bank accounts. Sharing financial intelligence with law enforcement agencies resulted in 10 arrests and the imprisonment of a key Australia-based syndicate member.
What to look out for
- Use of third-party company accounts to complicate transaction activity.
- Third parties making regular cash deposits into business accounts.
- Frequent cash deposits at different branches and ATMs on the same day.
- Regular or multiple cash deposits just below the A$10,000 cash transaction reporting threshold.
- High-value cash deposits and transfers out of new business accounts.
- High-volume account activity involving significant amounts of cash.
AUSTRAC identified a suspected Hong Kong–based money laundering syndicate operating in Australia. Over six months a key Australia-based member of the syndicate travelled from Sydney to Perth numerous times to help launder the proceeds of their organised crime. He received money on 13 occasions, collecting up to A$500,000 in cash at a time.
He then took other syndicate members to banks and ATMs across Perth to deposit cash into a variety of accounts belonging to newly established Australian companies whose directors were Hong Kong nationals living overseas. The money was ultimately transferred to China.
A total of 163 bank transactions estimated to be worth A$29.5 million were made, with the depositors visiting as many as 10 bank branches a day.
A joint-agency task force was set up between AUSTRAC, Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and Western Australia Police to identify the source of the deposited funds and to disrupt the money laundering.
Authorities arrested 10 offenders on money laundering and drug charges.
The syndicate’s key Australia-based member pleaded guilty to dealing in the proceeds of crime and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
How business reporting helped
Bank reporting of Threshold Transaction Reports enabled AUSTRAC to identify patterns of transactional activity consistent with money laundering.
AUSTRAC’s financial intelligence and expertise were pivotal in helping law enforcement understand the syndicate’s sophisticated money laundering methodologies and in identifying new suspects throughout the investigation.