Arrests made and $10.2m in assets restrained in operation targeting Auckland money laundering ring

Police are announcing its third instalment in a trilogy of operations targeting and disrupting Auckland’s high-end money launderers.

Early this morning members of the Financial Crime Group, assisted by the Armed Offenders Squad and staff from across Tāmaki Makaurau, terminated Operation Ida.

Twelve search warrants were executed across the city, including at a Newmarket business and at numerous residential addresses.

Operation Ida sees Police restraining more than $10.2 million in assets and making 10 arrests as part of the investigation.

Four properties and three vehicles, worth more than $10 million, have been restrained in St Heliers, Kumeu and New Lynn.

The contents of 23 bank accounts, cash, high value items and cryptocurrency wallets have also been restrained worth around $1m. This includes approximately $200,000 worth of jewellery.

Police anticipate there may be further restraints made.

Ten arrests, including 9 men and one woman, have been made as part of the operation.

Those charged range in age from 32 years to 70 years. Police have laid a raft of serious charges including money laundering, obtains by deception and possession of methamphetamine for supply.

Those charged are due to appear in the Auckland District Court tomorrow and 23 March 2021.

Today’s annoucement follows two earlier instalments – dubbed Brookings and Martinez – which were terminated in late 2020.

Overall, these terminations have seen in excess of NZ$21 million restrained by Police, with 28 people being charged and 103 charges being laid.

Those offences range from money laundering, structuring to avoid the AML/CFT requirements, fraud related offending, supplying methamphetamine, cultivation of cannabis, supplying cannabis and firearms related offending.

Detective Inspector Lloyd Schmid, of the Financial Crime Group, says the three operations are the culmination of more than a year’s worth of investigative work by the Financial Crime Group.

The Department of Internal Affairs and a number of the major financial institutions have assisted Police throughout these investigations, and we want to acknowledge them for their assistance.

“These investigations focused on the activities of semi-legitimate businesses that we allege were engaged in a staggering amount of money laundering,” says Detective Inspector Schmid.

“Police will allege that those funds being laundered were helping to fund the importation of illegal drugs into New Zealand. The funds were also generated by these individuals and organised crime groups involved in the manufacture and supply of drugs, theft, and fraud-related offending.

“Our enquiries to date indicate that funds were being laundered and sent offshore by those involved in this operation to settle payment for illicit drugs and other illicit commodities being sent to our country.

Detective Inspector Schmid says shutting down these payment channels is as important to Police as detecting drugs and other illicit items, such as firearms, at the border.

“This serves as a warning to offshore drug dealers and Organised Crime Groups that Police are no longer just targeting the importation of the drugs, but increasingly we will be targeting the money trail which fund it as well.

“In the case of Operation Ida, we have investigated a money laundering syndicate operating in Auckland, with a foreign exchange business allegedly as a front for their illicit activities.

“Money laundering is not a victimless crime and while this may appear like money simply being passed around, it actually represents immeasurable harm that is being imposed on our communities.”

Detective Inspector Schmid says Police will continue to investigate, disrupt, and prosecute money laundering syndicates and their associates.

“It should serve as a warning for those engaged in this sort of offending – expect to be on our radar and held to account for your actions.”

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/NZ Police Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.