Australian authorities arrest members of suspected Vietnamese criminal network over money laundering charges

From: RegTech Analyst

Drugs, guns and $5m in laundered money are some of the key ingredients in a series of arrests made by Australian authorities to break up a criminal network.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and the Western Australia Police Force collaborated to bring the suspects to justice. The banks ANZ, NAB, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank supported the investigation.

The authorities allege that the arrested individuals are members of a suspected Vietnamese criminal network that has laundered over $5m since February 2019.

The first of the series of arrests happened in June when a bank alerted the police about a man and a woman making several suspected transactions in Perth over a 24-hour period. The two individuals had visited several banks, making cash deposits into a number of different accounts.

Shortly thereafter, the two were arrested. When the police searched their hotel room, they found documents indicating that more than $180,000 worth of cash deposits had been made. At the time of the arrest the man was still in possession of over $6,000 in cash.

The man and the woman, both in their mid-20s, were subsequently charged with possession of stolen or unlawfully obtained property. They are due to appear in front of a court in February.

Another man and woman were arrested in August 2019 after police searched a residence and found 24 kilograms of cannabis material packaged and ready for distribution as well as methylamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine, two firearms and over in $170,000 cash.

AUSTRAC and the WA Police Force allege financial transactions totalling more than $3.3m have been linked to the woman.

The man and the woman have been charged with drug and property laundering offences.

“It is clear a lot of thought went into the methods used by those involved in an attempt to prevent law enforcement agencies detecting their criminal activity,” said Paul Matthews, acting detective senior sergeant, operations manager, proceeds of crime squad. “However, our relationships with the financial services industry, and that industry’s own increased recognition and awareness of their role in fighting serious crime, has resulted in critical and timely intelligence being identified and shared that directly resulted in the identification and arrests of those people who have been charged.

“Through operations like this we are able to establish new intelligence and lines of investigation for our national and international intelligence and law enforcement partners, and continue to combat serious crime both within and outside our borders.

“All organised crime activity is driven by profit and targeting those who are enabling money to be laundered, regardless of the laundering process being used, helps make Western Australia a hostile environment for those criminal networks to operate. In this instance, given the seizure of drugs during the operation, we believe significantly more amounts of money would have been laundered had the criminal network not been dismantled.”

The news comes after Australian authorities have told the country’s financial services sector that it will take off the gloves when it comes to money laundering.

In September, AUSTRAC’s CEO Nicole Rose warned pubs, clubs, FinTech firms and money remitters that they better strengthen their anti-money laundering (AML) defences or suffer the consequences.

In November, AUSTRAC accused Westpac, one of the country’s biggest banks, of having failed in its AML and counter-terrorism financing efforts 23 million times between 2013 and 2018.

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