The AFP has arrested and charged a sixth Chinese national living in Sydney as part of an investigation into an organised criminal syndicate involved in a cyber-enabled investment scam that has resulted in more than US$100 million in losses worldwide.
The AFP has so far arrested five other Chinese Nationals based in Sydney as part of Operation Wickham.
Investigators will allege the highly-sophisticated scam involved the unlawful manipulation of legitimate electronic trading platforms, normally licensed to foreign exchange brokers who then provide the software to their clients.
The United States Secret Service (USSS) notified the AFP-led Joint Policing Cybercrime Coordination Centre (JPC3) about Australian links to the predominantly US-based scam in August 2022. AFP Eastern Command then began a parallel investigation.
The AFP will allege that the investigation uncovered that a 34-year-old Chinese national living in the Sydney suburb of Burwood was using bank and cryptocurrency accounts to facilitate cash deposits and transfers offshore. It will be alleged that these funds would help launder money believed to be the proceeds of crime.
The accounts were created by the criminal syndicate using the details of Samoan nationals on temporary working visas. The temporary workers received a nominal fee for access to the account and current evidence obtained by the AFP indicates they may not have been aware of the criminal activity.
The Chinese national was identified by police when CCTV captured him undertaking cash deposits into one of the compromised accounts and taking the receipt of funds from two compromised accounts.
AFP investigators conducted a search warrant on Tuesday 15 August, 2023, seizing the man’s electronic devices for further examination and three larges boxes of tobacco products.
The man is scheduled to appear before Downing Centre Local Court on 7 September, 2023 charged with:
- Dealing in proceeds of indictable crime, money or property worth $100,000 or more, contrary to section 400.4(2) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
- Receiving a designated service using a false name or customer anonymity, contrary to section 140(3) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth); and
- Reasonable suspicion of being in possession of Tobacco and the excise duty has not been paid, contrary to section 308-20 Taxation Administration Act 1953
AFP Detective Superintendent Tim Stainton said Operation Wickham is a clear example of how cyber criminals use social engineering techniques to manipulate victims into thinking their investments are legitimate when actually these funds are going straight into the pockets of criminals.
“The number of people falling victim to these types of cyber-enabled scams continues to grow on a daily basis and it is essential that the Australian community exercises the utmost caution if approached online, in person, or on the phone by anyone trying to use any component of their identity to assist the activities of organised crime syndicates,” said Det-Supt Stainton.
“I encourage all members of the public to exercise a high degree of caution when approached or engaged by unknown entities on the internet or over online communication platforms in relation to investment opportunities or any other type of opportunity. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”
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