Alleged money launderer forfeits $1.8 million to Commonwealth

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Taxation Office (ATO) have secured the forfeiture of approximately $1.8 million seized from a 36-year-old Queensland man in 2017 as the suspected proceeds of crime.

The forfeiture follows multi-faceted investigations under Operation Reddig, which was started in 2016 by the Queensland National Anti-Gangs Squad (NAGS), comprised of the AFP, Queensland Police Service (QPS) and ATO.

Operation Reddig investigated an organised crime network distributing commercial quantities of MDMA and cocaine from New South Wales into Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The 36-year-old man, who was known to associate with members of the Finks and Mongols outlaw motorcycle gangs, was identified during the investigation.

AFP enquiries and forensic accounting analysis allegedly identified that the man was laundering funds through various bank accounts and businesses. These were then used to build significant wealth through cash and real estate holdings that he attempted to pass off as legitimate. Investigations also revealed the man was not gainfully employed and his wealth far surpassed income he was declaring to the ATO.

The AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) targeted assets linked to alleged illicit profits, while a separate criminal investigation continued into the man’s alleged criminal activities.

In November 2017, The AFP initiated asset confiscation proceedings in November 2017 over four South East Queensland properties linked to the man, on suspicion that he and his partner were involved in money laundering and tax fraud. The simultaneous resolution of the NAGS’ criminal investigation led to multiple search warrants being executed, including at the man’s residence in Wongawallan, on the Gold Coast.

On 16 September 2021, the Brisbane District Court ordered that the 36-year-old man forfeit assets with a combined value of about $1.8 million to the Commonwealth. These include:

  • Two properties with a combined value of about $1.34 million;
  • Rental income of about $180,000 from the above two properties; and
  • About $350,000 from the sale of a restrained property.

The CACT and ATO coordinated their confiscation efforts to ensure they maximised the forfeitures and protected Commonwealth tax revenue.

AFP Commander Investigations Andrew Donoghoe, Northern Command said criminals attempting to live the high life off ill-gotten gains could be assured that police would catch up with them and end the party.

“Unexplained sources of wealth are often a sign of underlying criminal activity and the AFP is committed to working with its partners to ensure offenders aren’t able to profit from exploiting the wider community,” Commander Donoghoe said.

“Not only will the AFP arrest and charge offenders for their criminal activity, we will come after any assets they have accumulated while breaking the law.

“If someone is telling the ATO they aren’t making any money, but live in a massive house or drive luxury vehicles, it doesn’t add up and the AFP is committed to investigating where the money is coming from.”

Funds from the sale of forfeited assets will be deposited into the Commonwealth Confiscated Assets Account, which is managed by the Australian Financial Security Authority. Funds in this account are then redistributed by the Minister for Home Affairs to support crime prevention, law enforcement and other community initiatives.

The CACT brings together the resources and expertise of financial investigators, lawyers and forensic accountants and investigators from the ATO, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), and, more recently, Australian Border Force (ABF). 

A key strategy of the CACT is to combat serious and organised crime by removing the profit from crime and preventing its reinvestment in further criminal enterprise. Targeting the criminal economy is crucial to disrupting and deterring organised criminal activity. 

Operation Reddig was active between February 2016 and November 2017 and resulted in 15 people based in southeast Queensland being charged with 62 offences relating to:

  • drug trafficking, manufacture and possession;
  • money laundering and dealing in proceeds of crime;
  • tax fraud; and
  • possession of weapons and vulnerable wildlife without relevant permits.

More than 45 kilograms of drugs - including cocaine, methamphetamine and cannabis - were seized and more than $3.6 million in cash and real estate seized or restrained by police.

Anyone who suspects that an individual or business is involved in money laundering, or suspects individuals possess assets beyond their means can contact the AFP via the “report a Commonwealth crime” tab on the AFP website.

Editor's Note

Vision of the arrest from November 2017 is available via hightail. 

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