Money laundering suspects attempted to move $1 million in cooler bags
Two Sydney men accused of laundering tens of millions of dollars for offshore Australian crime figures have been arrested after they attempted to move $1 million cash contained in cooler bags through a suburban “daigou” business.
The Australian Federal Police believe the clients of the money laundering syndicate include several high-value targets of Australian law enforcement who are currently based overseas.
In a major police sting, the AFP on Monday arrested 37-year-old Carlingford man Wuchen Wang as he delivered two cooler bags – containing $500,000 each – to a daigou business in the western Sydney suburb of Auburn.
A 40-year-old man from Dundas Valley, Jiyuan Ma, was arrested as he left a pub in Ermington in Sydney’s north-west.
The two Sydney men have allegedly funnelled millions of dollars from the sale of drugs through the daigou business on behalf of their criminal clients.
Police will allege Ma was the “coordinator” of the overseas money laundering operation, while Wang was the “collector”. In an international money laundering network, the coordinator is responsible for managing collectors and executing the instructions of a “controller”, who is usually based overseas and is responsible for directing the activities of the group.
The two men were identified as part of a long-running joint investigation between the AFP, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
New South Wales Police arrested a third man, a 21-year-old named Thomas Keogh, who is accused of handing over the bags of cash to Wang to be laundered.
Police believe the transnational money laundering operation is based in South-East Asia.
The AFP is still investigating whether the daigou operators were aware that they were allegedly helping move dirty money offshore on behalf of the criminal syndicate. Photos of the arrest show the business was stocked with boxes of baby formula.
Daigous are highly organised shoppers who run their own businesses buying products in Australia to sell in China. Australian police suspect money laundering operations often funnel illegitimate funds through daigous so they can transfer dirty proceeds offshore without using Australian bank accounts. The goods are shipped to China and re-sold, with the profits going back to the money launderer.
Australian drug traffickers regularly use money laundering operations, often based in Asia, to transfer their proceeds into revenue from apparently legal sources.
AFP federal agent Geoff Hyde said money laundering networks help organised crime groups access the profits from their Australian crimes by moving the proceeds offshore.
“Money laundering is a key enabler of organised crime and drug trafficking – and is a serious criminal enterprise in its own right,” he said.
“That ability to move the money offshore enables international drug trafficking organisations to continue the cycle of importing drugs into Australia, selling them and accessing those profits by getting the proceeds of sales offshore.”
While police will allege the heads of the money laundering network and many of their clients are overseas, Hyde said “they should not think they are untouchable by Australian law enforcement agencies”.
“We are working closely with our partners to track their activities and make them accountable to the law. We aim to outsmart them, we will strip them of their dishonest wealth and we will dismantle their criminal networks,” he said.
Ma and Wang have both been charged with dealing in the proceeds of crime worth $1 million or more, which carries a maximum of 25 years.
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