The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has restrained more than $8.5m in jewellery, vehicles and properties in Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast, as part of a proceeds of crime investigation into offshore funds allegedly being laundered in Australia by Chinese nationals.
The operation follows a 2016 request from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) for AFP assistance to identify possible Chinese nationals involved in this illegal activity, Australian Federal Police say.
The AFP will allege two Chinese nationals travelled to Australia in 2015 to establish shell companies to transfer proceeds of crime and purchase residential and development property in Australia. Chinese authorities allege the money was raised in China through the defrauding of investors.
On 14-15 November 2018, AFP investigators seized the properties, vehicles and luxury items during simultaneous search warrants in the Melbourne suburbs of Lower Plenty, Hawthorn and Melbourne CBD. A further warrant was executed in the Sydney suburb of Waterloo/Zetland. Investigations into the individuals involved are ongoing.
AFP Acting National Manager Organised Crime, Commander Bruce Hill, highlighted the importance of international collaboration in stopping money laundering and its harmful impact on the Australian community.
“As people attempt to evade foreign governments and police agencies, the AFP is committed to working with our international counterparts to stop proceeds of crime being laundered in Australia,” Commander Hill said.
“This kind of activity – where significant criminal proceeds are moved into Australian assets – can erode the level playing field for Australian homebuyers and small business owners. This ripple effect impacts our whole community; it is far from a victimless crime.
“Our message to people thinking about laundering proceeds of crime in Australia is clear – your money and assets are not hidden from the AFP and our international partners. We will catch you.”
The $8.5 million in restrained assets are now subject to a Commonwealth restraining order made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. These alleged proceeds of crime were related to the following offences:
- Dealing in proceeds of crime, money or property worth any value up to $1,000,000 or more contrary to section 400.3 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth);
- Obtaining property or a financial advantage by deception contrary to section 134 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth); and
- Causing a loss to the Commonwealth (ATO) contrary to section 135.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
This is the third separate investigation since October 2018 involving Chinese nationals allegedly creating shell companies, laundering money and evading tax. In October 2018 the AFP restrained three residential properties and two bank accounts relating to proceeds of crime with an estimated value of $2 million.
Collectively, these investigations have resulted in about $10.5 million in restrained assets.
The AFP has a long and productive relationship with the MPS and ongoing close collaboration under the Joint Agency Arrangement on economic crime cooperation. The AFP will continue to disrupt transnational money laundering groups and demonstrate that Australia is a hostile environment for criminals seeking to hide their illegally-obtained assets.
Footage of the items seized available here.