AFP confiscates cash, jewellry and luxury homes in three separate WA investigations

Editor’s note: Images of assets and cash seized available via Hightail link

The Australian Federal Police-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) has secured the forfeiture of almost $3.5 million in cash and assets across three separate matters which were recently finalised in Perth.

A seven-year unexplained wealth and proceeds of crime investigation last month (June 2022) resulted in the forfeiture of more than $3.1 million in assets from a couple formerly based in WA. The items forfeited to the Commonwealth include three homes, and a business unit in Perth, two Mercedes cars, Louis Vuitton designer handbags, diamond jewellry and a Rolex watch.

The CACT began a proceeds of crime investigation into the couple in 2015 – named Operation Adieu – after identifying that the couple’s wealth exceeded the value of their lawfully acquired or declared wealth.  The Supreme Court of WA has ordered by consent that the cash and assets be forfeited to the Commonwealth in separate orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth) (POCA).

A separate investigation resulted in the CACT successfully applying to the WA courts to have $192,500 in cash, suspected to be the proceeds of crime, forfeited from a man, 32, who was charged following the seizure of one kilogram of methamphetamine at Sydney Airport.

AFP investigators found the $192,500 cash concealed in a backpack when they executed a search warrant at the man’s home in WA’s Secret Harbour in 2020.

Police alleged the money was suspected to be the proceeds of crime the man received from the eastern states. He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in September 2021 in Perth District Court for drug possession and dealing in proceeds of crime.

The District Court of WA ordered the man forfeit the money to the Commonwealth last month (June 2022).

The third CACT case concerned a joint operation with the Australian Border Force (ABF) into a man suspected of operating shell companies to facilitate illegal labour hire in WA. ABF officers

located $136,460 in cash during a May 2020 search of the man’s apartment, including envelopes of cash hidden in his freezer. 

The CACT obtained restraining orders over the money, suspected to be the proceeds of criminal activity.

The matter was finalised by consent last month, with the District Court of WA ordering the $136,460 in cash be forfeited to the Commonwealth.

The cash and proceeds from the sale of the seized assets will be deposited into the Confiscated Assets Account, from which funds are redistributed by the Commonwealth Government to support crime prevention, law enforcement and related community initiatives.

AFP National Manager Criminal Assets Confiscation Stefan Jerga said the CACT team in WA had obtained forfeiture orders for more than $13 million in cash and assets in the last financial year, while also restraining over $9 million in assets, pending further court action.

“Our highly skilled team of criminal asset investigators, forensic accountants, litigators and partner agency specialists will continue to be relentless and use every legal and operational avenue available to seize the ill-gotten wealth of criminals, take the profit out of their crimes and disrupt further investment in their operations,” Mr Jerga said.

AFP Commander Western Command John Tanti said these cases should send a warning to people who lived a lifestyle they could not lawfully justify.

“If you accumulate wealth and assets that you cannot link to lawful sources and are living in luxury off ill-gotten gains, the AFP and its partners will catch up with you and hold you to account,” he said.

“Unexplained sources of wealth are often a sign of underlying criminal activity and the AFP is committed to ensuring offenders are not able to profit from exploiting the wider community.

“It is rewarding to know that once these illicit profits are confiscated, they are redirected to fund projects which enhance the safety and security of communities around Australia, including here in Western Australia.”

ABF Assistant Commissioner Emma Johnson said ABF officers would always take decisive enforcement action against organised groups and individuals determined to profit from the exploitation of vulnerable people, such as foreign workers in our community. 

“Foreign workers are in high demand and essential to the Australian workforce, but they can be open to exploitation. Nothing sends a stronger message to these groups and individuals than having their illicit profits and assets forfeited to the Australian Government,” Assistant Commissioner Johnson said.

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.

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