AUSTRAC supported an investigation into a money laundering syndicate operating between Australia, New Zealand and China. The syndicate tried to launder more than A$600,000 through casino accounts, remittance service providers and banks. Reporting by banks and casinos helped law enforcement catch the offender, who was charged and convicted.
What to look out for
- A large amount of cash, inconsistent with previous betting account activity, deposited into a casino account.
- A large cash amount of cash bundled in A$100 and A$20 notes deposited into a bank account.
- Banknotes in poor condition (dirty or gritty) deposited into a casino account.
- A customer makes a large cash deposit into a casino or bank account, gives ambiguous information about where the money came from, and uses a foreign passport as identification to open the account.
- A customer makes multiple large domestic bank transfers from their account to someone else’s account in a short time, then receives money back into their account from the same person during the same period.
After arriving in Australia from New Zealand, the offender went to a casino. In the casino carpark, an associate (Suspect A) gave her a backpack containing A$624,340 in cash, which the offender deposited into her casino account. After trying but failing to transfer A$200,000 of the money to the bank account of another associate (Ms X), the offender withdrew A$300,000 in cash.
She then went to a bank and tried to deposit the cash in order to transfer it to Ms X, who worked for a money transfer business in another state. But when the bank staff asked the offender about the origin of the cash and the reason for the transaction, she couldn’t provide a satisfactory explanation. The cash was seized and she was arrested.
The investigation found the offender and her son worked for a remittance service in New Zealand. When law enforcement examined the offender’s phone, they found instructions from her son to transfer A$300,000 to Ms X, who intended to transfer the funds to the offender's brother in China.
Searching Suspect A’s home, law enforcement found cartons of illegal cigarettes. It wasn’t clear whether the cash was from the sale of illegal cigarettes or the proceeds of other criminal activity. The tobacco was voluntarily surrendered and destroyed. Authorities also seized cash the offender had tried to deposit, as well as the money in her casino account.
The offender was charged with one count of dealing with more than A$100,000 that it was reasonable to suspect were the proceeds of crime.
The offender was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment. Neither Ms X nor her employer were implicated or charged with any offences.
How business reporting helped
The casino and bank submitted four suspicious matter reports (SMRs) to AUSTRAC before the offender was arrested. The casino reported the offender’s highly unusual cash deposit, her attempt to transfer A$200,000, and her cash withdrawal of A$300,000. The bank reported the offender’s suspicious A$300,000 deposit, as well as transfers to and from her son’s domestic bank account.
In addition to the provision of financial intelligence, AUSTRAC searched the Remittance Sector Register for the offender and her family members and associates. AUSTRAC provided a statement to support the prosecution and provided evidence in court.