Multiple arrests were made after Australian Federal Police officers unearthed a multi-million dollar international money laundering scheme in Sydney.
Nine group members were charged after AFP stormed 13 locations across the Harbour City on Wednesday and discovered $150 million of illegal items.
Officers seized more than $29 million in cryptocurrency, 18 designer watches, 17 designer handbags, at least 46 items of luxury jewellery and four licenced firearms that were unlawfully stored following a search of the properties.
A 43-year-old man, who police allege is the head of the organisation, was arrested at his Vaucluse home in Sydney’s affluent eastern suburbs.
A 41-year-old woman was also arrested at the same address.
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Other alleged group members also detained include a 45-year-old Bellevue Hill man, a 35-year-old Epping man, a 54-year-old Drummoyne man, a 41-year-old Crows Nest man, a 33-year-old Mays Hill man, a 56-year-old Yagoona man and a 69-year-old Burwood woman.
The global crime ring, with headquarters in Sydney, allegedly acted as a global bank by laundering illicit funds across borders to finance criminals and other criminal groups.
A range of the group’s illegally derived items were confiscated through restraining orders.
The orders seized more than 20 Sydney properties including commercial buildings in the CBD and two houses worth more than $19 million combined in eastern suburbs.
A 360-hectare plot of land worth $47 million near the Western Sydney Airport, 66 bank accounts, cash and more than $1 million in luxury cars were also repossessed.
The arrests come after joint efforts by the AFP, AUSTRAC, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Border Force, the National Bank of Australia, the Royal Malaysia Police and the Hong Kong Police Force.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Eastern Command Kirsty Schofield said money laundering was a “global threat which no agency can combat alone”.
“This was a sophisticated, complex syndicate established to facilitate the movement of funds regardless of their origin, purpose or harm caused to the Australian community,” she said.
“We have not ruled out further arrests in Australia or internationally. We are working closely with our international partners and sharing intelligence to ensure all members of this alleged money laundering organisation are held accountable for their actions.”
The 43-year-old man from Vaucluse was charged with conspiracy to deal money to the value of $1 million with intention for the money to be an instrument of crime and conspiracy to deal in the proceeds of general crime to the value of $1 million or more.
The offences each carried a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.
The men from Bellevue Hill, Epping and Mays Hill have been charged with conspiracy to deal with money to the value of $1 million or more where there was an intention that the money would become an instrument of crime.
The women from Vaucluse and Burwood, and the men from Drummoyne, Burwood and Crows Nest have been charged with conspiracy to deal in the proceeds of general crime to the value of $1 million or more.
And the Yagoona man has been charged with aid and abet, counselled or procured the commission of an offence, and pervert the course of justice.
Operation Avarus-Midas was established to identify criminal groups in Australia and offshore.
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