Living large: Money laundering rife in financial, property markets

Four national law enforcement agencies will make up a new joint task force to crack down on wide-scale money laundering across Australia’s financial and property markets.

Mar 17, 2023, updated Mar 17, 2023
Global wealth took a massive hit in 2022 (Image: Unsplash)

Global wealth took a massive hit in 2022 (Image: Unsplash)

Police believe billions of dollars are laundered in Australia every year – used to bankroll lavish lifestyles and fund further criminal activity.

The Australian Federal Police, Border Force, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission will target perpetrators both in Australia and overseas.

Agency bosses were set to meet in Sydney on Friday to launch Taskforce Avarus to help drain the lifeblood out of international criminal syndicates.

The group says mules are being flown throughout Australia to collect illicit money and deposit it into ATMs, including networks of students and foreign nationals.

Evidence also shows criminal syndicates are using baby formula, vitamins and luxury goods, which are purchased in Australia using dirty money and then sold overseas.

Intelligence revealed on certain days last year, one Sydney criminal gang was laundering $1 million every hour for three to five hours.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Eastern Command Stephen Dametto said criminals were living large while undermining Australia’s national security, economy and social security system.

“While law-abiding Australians are earning an honest day’s living, paying their taxes or being good community citizens, organised crime gangs are using money gained illegally to increase their wealth,” he said.

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“They are buying homes, commercial property, investing in our financial systems and living large without the financial pressures felt by ordinary Australians.”

According to AUSTRAC, which monitors and prevents criminal abuse of Australia’s financial systems, the use of real estate is a well-established method of international money laundering.

AUSTRAC deputy chief executive of Intelligence Dr John Moss said money laundering didn’t just happen in the movies and was used to fund operations that caused significant harm to those involved such as drug and human trafficking.

“It’s important to understand that money laundering is not something that just happens in movies,” he said.

“It is a real-world crime with real-world consequences, and not in some place far away but right here in Australia and in our communities.”

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