$1.8 million cash forfeited after joint investigation

More than $1.8 million cash seized from a Melbourne drug trafficking syndicate has been forfeited to the Commonwealth as proceeds of crime as a result of a joint Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police investigation.

The $1,817,470 cash was forfeited after the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce obtained restraining orders in the County Court of Victoria under section 18 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth).

Most of the cash piled high on a coffee table was initially seized on 20 March 2020 at a Melbourne location as part of a Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce investigation into an attempted 250 kilogram methamphetamine importation. The drugs had been found concealed in a shipment of tyres at the Port of Melbourne on 11 March 2020.

Acting Commander Investigations, AFP Southern Command, Raegan Stewart, emphasised that the forfeiture was a result of the close collaboration between the criminal investigators, the criminal asset investigators and the lawyers in CACT.

AFP Commander Criminal Assets Confiscation, Stephen Fry said the forfeited cash would be used to fund a range of initiatives that would benefit the Australian community.

The three men arrested in this matter were sentenced in May (2021) after pleading guilty to attempting to possess a commercial quantity of Border Controlled Drugs.

The 21 year-old was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment, minimum of six years.

The 20 year-old was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, minimum of five years.

The 20 year-old was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, minimum of 2.5 years.

The restrained cash was forfeited to the Commonwealth on 17 November 2021 under the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth).

The seized funds will be deposited into the Confiscated Assets Account, which is managed by the Australian Financial Securities Authority (AFSA) on behalf of the Commonwealth. The funds are then used to benefit the community through crime prevention, intervention or diversion programs, or other law enforcement initiatives.

AFP Commander Criminal Assets Confiscation, Stephen Fry said that the CACT’s objective is to maximise impact on the criminal environment by depriving offenders of the proceeds and benefits of their crimes, and to punish and deter them from breaching the law.

“This case demonstrates that the AFP- led CACT will relentlessly pursue criminally obtained assets to ensure that those who commit crimes are deprived from enjoying the benefits obtained from their illicit activities.”

The CACT brings together the resources and expertise of the AFP, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Taxation Office, AUSTRAC, and the Australian Border Force. These agencies work together to trace, restrain and ultimately confiscate criminal assets.

Victoria Police Commander, Crime Command, Mick Frewen, said the success of the operation again highlights what can be achieved through the commitment of law enforcement agencies to pool their resources and expertise.

“Each of the agencies bring their own particular strengths to combat the growing availability of drugs – and consequently, the harm caused by drugs,” he said.

“Victoria Police continues to collaborate extensively with our partners. Our reach and impact continues to grow as we hold serious and organised crime offenders and syndicates to account.

“Central to this is our focus on their assets and unexplained wealth. Constricting these illegal funding sources plays an ever-growing role in our investigative responses designed to cripple and dissect these criminal networks.”

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