Property, luxury goods and cash seized in international money laundering investigation

The AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) has restrained more than $10 million dollars in assets – including eight ACT properties, four high-end vehicles, luxury goods, cash and cryptocurrencies – amid an international money laundering investigation.

The AFP executed search warrants at two homes and a storage unit in Canberra on Thursday (28 July, 2022), seizing more than $1.5 million cash hidden inside one house. A number of documents and electronic devices were also examined and seized for further forensic investigation.

A man, 35, based in the ACT was charged on 28 July, 2022 with one count of dealing with property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime for an amount of $100,000 or more, under section 400.9(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is three years’ imprisonment.

He was granted bail and will face court at a later date, where the AFP will allege he used sophisticated transactions to launder cash and cryptocurrency from the sale of stolen personal identification information, illegal goods plus the proceeds from fraudulent scams and illegal online gambling.

AFP will further allege the man had accumulated a significant number of assets that were suspected to be the proceeds of crime, including eight properties, four luxury cars worth more than $800,000, 28 bank accounts and about $600,000 in cryptocurrency.

While the CACT’s work under the Commonwealth’s proceeds of crime legislation is civil in nature, the CACT nonetheless works closely alongside the criminal investigation, to deliver maximum impact to the criminal environment. Operation Nairana began in late 2020 when the FBI and the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), as part of the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement (J5), reported an Australian-based person was allegedly using crypto-currency to launder money.

AUSTRAC provided support to the initial stages of this investigation, identifying relevant financial data. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has also significantly supported this investigation and will continue using intelligence capabilities to assist partners.

AFP Acting Commander Scott Raven said money laundering was a threat to Australia’s economy and national security.

“Money laundering is also heavily used to fund further criminal activities that impact our community’s safety,” Acting Commander Raven said.

“The AFP has a unique ability to disrupt groups suspected of criminal activity where it hurts them the most; seizing their profits and preventing them from using those funds in future ventures.”

“This case demonstrates that the AFP will be relentless in pursuing those allegedly involved in global money laundering activities, to ensure that those suspected of dealing in the proceeds of crime cannot enjoy the benefits of their illicitly obtained wealth.”

FBI Legal Attaché Nitiana Mann said the FBI prioritizes domestic and international partnerships to combat money laundering worldwide.

“It is because of our collaboration with law enforcement and intelligence partners that outcomes like this continue to exemplify our commitment to protect the integrity of our financial systems,” FBI Legal Attaché Nitiana Mann said.

Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation and the J5 Chief from the US, Chief Jim Lee, said “the days of cryptocurrency being used to anonymously move money for illicit activities are over.

“The J5 exists for cases just like this where international partnerships can bring successful investigative outcomes, preventing our jurisdictions from being used as havens for criminal activity.”

Formed in 2018, the J5 works together to gather information, share intelligence and conduct coordinated operations against transnational financial crimes. The J5 includes the Australian Taxation Office, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Dutch Fiscal Information and Investigation Service, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs from the UK and IRS Criminal Investigation from the US.

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