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Michael Moore

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November 21, 2023

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Blog / The Long River Syndicate: Australia’s $144 Million Operation

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The Long River Syndicate: Australia’s $144 Million Operation

In a recent operation done by Australian Police Force, the authorities have charged seven individuals with aiding a Chinese crime syndicate in laundering hundreds of millions of dollars. These arrests were followed by a meticulous 14-month investigation that involved various Australian agencies and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, making it the nation’s most complex money laundering probe to date.

HSI and Australian Federal Police, with partners, held a press conference on dismantling a multi-million dollar Chinese money laundering network.

 HSI and Australian Federal Police holding Press Conference

The investigation exposed a clandestine scheme within Australia’s Changjiang Currency Exchange, a money remittance chain with a dozen outlets. Although the chain was seemingly involved in legitimate transactions, it concealed illicit transfers totaling 229 million Australian dollars ($144 million) over three years. Authorities began to raise suspicions during Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdowns when the exchange expanded, seemingly against economic logic. Over 300 officers conducted 20 raids across the country, leading to the confiscation of luxurious properties and vehicles valued at tens of millions of dollars. The seven accused individuals, comprising four Chinese nationals and three Australian citizens, faced their initial court appearance in Melbourne.

Jewelry seized by Australian Federal Police

Jewelry was among the luxury items federal police seized

The accused are alleged to have indulged in extravagant lifestyles, frequenting high-end restaurants, savoring expensive wines and sake, utilizing private jets, driving luxury vehicles worth A$400,000, and residing in opulent homes, some exceeding A$10 million in value. Additionally, the syndicate offered guidance to criminal clients on producing counterfeit business documentation, including falsified invoices and bank statements. Their illicit funds originated from cyber scams, trafficking illegal goods, and violent activities. The syndicate had even procured forged passports at A$200,000 ($126,000) each for contingency escapes. What sets this investigation apart is the syndicate’s brazen operation, as they conducted their activities openly through prominent shopfronts nationwide, challenging the typical clandestine nature of money laundering organizations.

Man being arrested for money laundering allegations

Federal police arrest a man in Sydney as they dismantle a money-laundering syndicate.

More robust monitoring and risk-based supervision of businesses like currency exchanges that handle high transaction volumes could have flagged the abnormal expansion of the chain during the economic downturn.

Financial institutions should have scrutinized transactions more closely through stronger KYC measures, transaction analysis and periodic reviews of exchanges. This may have identified suspicious activities and prevented this extensive money laundering.

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