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28 March 2024, 7:16am
Media Release

Alleged Chinese criminal gang accused of laundering $39 million

This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police and AUSTRAC

Editor’s Note: Arrest vision and images available via Hightail

Four members of an alleged Chinese criminal gang, accused of laundering more than $39 million dollars in illicit cash, have been charged as part of a joint law enforcement investigation in Melbourne.

In January 2023, AFP investigators attached to Taskforce Avarus – a multi-agency operation combatting criminal networks laundering money in Australia and overseas – commenced targeting a Chinese criminal syndicate involved in laundering millions of dollars of proceeds of crime.

Codenamed AVARUS-SINAI, the operation also involved assistance from Victoria Police and AUSTRAC.

Authorities will allege the Chinese criminal syndicate is responsible for laundering $39,527,935 in illicit cash collections and remittance funds to individuals in China using a sophisticated network of criminal associates in Melbourne between July and August 2022.

On Monday 25 March, 2024, AFP arrested and charged a South Yarra man, 23, over his alleged role in collecting illicit cash on behalf of the criminal syndicate.

He is expected to face the Melbourne Magistrates Court today (Thursday 28 March, 2024), charged with dealing with money or property, believed to be proceeds of general crime, worth $1,000,000 or more contrary to section 400.3(1B) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

A 32-year-old Chinese national, currently on remand and awaiting trial, was charged last week (Tuesday 19 March, 2024) for allegedly directing the Australian-based criminal syndicate’s money laundering activities.

The man was previously charged with drug import offences, allegedly linked to the attempted import of a commercial quantity of methamphetamine concealed inside a shipment of rubber mats sent from South Africa to Australia in September, 2022.

In February, 2024 police arrested a Doncaster East man, 42, who is accused of allegedly facilitating illicit cash and remittance fund transactions on behalf of the Chinese organised criminal group.

In March, a Box Hill man, 37, was charged for allegedly remitting around $20,000,000 (of the total amount) in illicit cash collections to China during the same period.

The registration of the remittance business has since been suspended by AUSTRAC.

The accused syndicate members from Box Hill, Doncaster East and Chinese national, have been charged with one count each of dealing with money or property, believed to be the proceeds of general crime, worth $10,000,000 or more, contrary to section 400.2B(2) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

They are all scheduled to reappear at the Melbourne Magistrates court on 1 July, 2024.

The AFP-led investigation has received significant support from AUSTRAC and Victoria Police who provided assistance with intelligence and resources used to support the investigation.

During the operation, police executed search warrants in the Melbourne suburbs of Doncaster East, Box Hill and the CBD, seizing three gel blasters, replica firearms, multiple phones, electronic devices, designer watches, documents and other luxury items, along with more than $212,000 dollars in cash.

AFP Detective Superintendent Simone Butcher said the investigation had disrupted the alleged illicit activities of a Transnational Serious Organised Crime syndicate operating in Australia and overseas.

“These arrests serve as another reminder to criminal syndicates both in Australia and offshore that the AFP, together with our law enforcement partners will not tolerate offenders operating their illicit enterprises in our community,” Det.Supt Butcher said.

“We allege that the amount of illicit wealth – a staggering $39 million dollars - was laundered by this criminal group in just one month and is more than most hardworking individuals would earn in multiple lifetimes.

“Money laundering is the lifeblood of criminal activity. This is a crime that that not only supports serious organised crime, but it also contributes to facilitating other illicit activities like extortion, kidnapping, and illicit drug trafficking.

“The AFP is working tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to pursue alleged offenders involved in global money laundering activities, to ensure criminals cannot benefit or enjoy their illicit wealth.”

AUSTRAC Director Intelligence, Markus Erikson said the expertise of AUSTRAC’s financial intelligence analysts was instrumental in disrupting this criminal operation.

“We’re proud to be able to assist our law enforcement partners with specialised financial crime support, helping them uncover the complex money laundering methodologies used by these criminals,” he said.

“As Australia’s financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC is uniquely placed to follow the money, by analysing our intelligence holdings to identify suspicious money movements and build a financial picture of a criminal operation. “

"This result is a reminder of the impact of our financial intelligence expertise, regulatory powers, and the effect of our partnerships with law enforcement and industry.”

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