In an operation led by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), seven individuals connected to an alleged Chinese organised crime syndicate have been arrested. The syndicate is accused of secretly controlling Changjiang Currency Exchange, a multi-billion-dollar money-remitting chain in Australia.
The accused faced Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today, and they have been charged with laundering almost $229 million over the past three years. Those charged range in age from 33 to 40 and include both Chinese nationals and Australian citizens.
AFP Eastern Command Assistant Commissioner Stephen Dametto said,
“Unlike traditional money laundering organisations, the Long River money laundering organisation entrenched itself into the very fabric of the financial services industry.”
Dametto also highlighted the extravagant lifestyle enjoyed by the syndicate members, which involved private jets, luxury cars, and expensive homes—one valued at more than $10 million. Assets suspected to have been purchased with laundered money have now been restrained by the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce.
“This operation exemplifies what can be achieved through multi-agency collaboration. By targeting key players, we will continue to dismantle these alleged criminal networks and focus on keeping Australian communities safe,”said Jennifer Hurst, ACIC Executive Director Intelligence Operations.
The operation, codenamed Avarus-Nightwolf, involved more than 330 law enforcement officers who executed 20 search warrants across mainland Australia. Simultaneously, assets worth more than $50 million, including property and vehicles, were seized.
This 14-month investigation was a collaborative effort involving multiple agencies such as AUSTRAC, the Australian Border Force, and the United States Department of Homeland Security Investigations.
The Face of Legitimacy
Changjiang Currency Exchange, which has 12 shop fronts across mainland states, has made an effort to appear legitimate. The AFP alleges that the company provided information about Australia’s anti-money laundering laws to its customers and even updated its shopfronts during COVID-19 lockdowns in Sydney to maintain a facade of legality.
A Complex Web of Crime
According to the AFP, the syndicate coached their criminal clients in creating fraudulent business paperwork, such as fake invoices and bank statements, to deceive authorities. The alleged criminal enterprise laundered money by transferring unlawfully obtained funds to national and international accounts, claiming them as legitimate business profits and expenses.
Authorities have warned that this operation should serve as a strong deterrent to money laundering syndicates both in Australia and abroad. Over the past 12 months, Taskforce Avarus investigations have led to 26 arrests and the removal of more than $270 million from the criminal environment.
The operation represents a significant milestone in Australia’s fight against complex financial crimes and sends a clear message to syndicates that their illegal activities will not go unnoticed.
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