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AFP-led taskforce secures multi-million dollar asset forfeiture in WA

03 June 2022, 10:31am
Media Release

AFP-led taskforce secures multi-million dollar asset forfeiture in WA

Editor’s Note: Audio grabs from AFP Commander CAC Stephen Fry and photographs of the Perth apartment available here

A WA man has been stripped of about $4 million worth of assets including funds in bank accounts, an apartment and other property, arising from an international money laundering and tax fraud investigation by the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT).

The Supreme Court of WA ordered in May (2022) that more than $2.25 million in illicit funds and a Perth apartment valued at about $585,000 be forfeited to the Commonwealth under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Another $1.2 million in funds was forfeited in December 2021 as part of the investigation.

The CACT commenced Operation Bassing in 2020 after receiving financial intelligence from AUSTRAC that identified suspicious banking activity and large funds transfers between bank accounts in WA and Thailand linked to the 60-year-old man.

After an extensive investigation and civil court proceedings led by the CACT’s in-house litigation team, the man agreed to forfeit the money and assets to the Commonwealth.

Most of the funds were in bank accounts, in both Australia and Thailand, and held variously in the names of companies, a relative and a business associate of the man.

Funds in the Thai accounts were restrained during the investigation with the assistance and cooperation of the Royal Thai Police Crime Suppression Division and Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) under Taskforce Storm joint-agency cooperation arrangements.

The Commonwealth’s potent proceeds of crime laws are based on a civil standard of proof and can operate where there is no related criminal prosecution, as was the case in this investigation.

AFP Commander Criminal Assets Confiscation Stephen Fry said the case should send a strong warning to anyone who lived a lifestyle they could not lawfully justify or whose wealth far surpassed income they were declaring to the ATO.

“The AFP and our domestic and international partners share intelligence to identify those who accumulate wealth they cannot explain and we are relentless in our efforts to ensure they cannot profit from exploiting the wider community,” he said.

Commander Fry also thanked the Royal Thai Police for their assistance.

“International cooperation is critically important in combatting transnational crimes like money laundering. The AFP is grateful for its close partnership with the Royal Thai Police and for their diligent and timely assistance in this matter," he said.

The forfeited funds and the proceeds of the sale of the apartment will be deposited into the Confiscated Assets Account (CAA). The CAA is a special purpose account managed by the Australian Financial Security Authority on behalf of the Commonwealth.

The funds from the CAA are then redistributed by the Minister for Home Affairs to benefit the community through crime prevention, intervention or diversion programs, or other law enforcement initiatives.

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.

Taskforce Storm is a joint operational agreement between the AFP, Thailand Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the Royal Thai Police, the Thailand Department of Special Investigations, and the Thailand Anti-Money Laundering Office. Taskforce Storm incorporates joint investigations and intelligence exchange to combat transnational organised crime, including drug trafficking, money laundering, firearms trafficking and serious fraud.

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