‘Dirty’ cash: Cops seize $1.2m in Chinese shopper raid
More than $1 million in cash packed into supermarket cooler bags was seized by police and three men arrested after a raid on an alleged international money-laundering syndicate operating across suburban Sydney.
One of the men Wang Wuchen, 37, of Carlingford, was arrested in Auburn, in Sydney's west outside a Chinese "daigou" - a business which ships goods such as baby formula from Australia to China for re-sale - while Ma Jiyuan, 40 of Dundas Valley, was arrested as left a pokies pub in Ermington.
The pair appeared in Parramatta Local Court on Tuesday.
Police allege the pair is part of a syndicate laundering $28.4 million for offshore Australian crime figures.
The court heard Wang was allegedly involved in a transnational money-laundering syndicate between Australia and China and was found in possession of $1.2 million during a raid on his home.
He was charged with recklessly risking money as an instrument of crime.
Ma faces two charges, namely, intending money as an instrument of crime and failing to comply with an order.
A third man, Thomas Keogh, 21, of Jannali in Sydney's south, was arrested by NSW police after they pulled over a grey Audi SUV on Smithfield Road, Prairiewood, in Sydney's south west about 4.45pm on Monday.
He was charged with recklessly dealing with the proceeds of crime, and dealing with property proceeds of crime.
Police allege he handed the money to Wang to be laundered.
A joint investigation between the Australian Federal Police, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the NSW Force is continuing into allegations a suburban Sydney money-laundering organisations was moving illicit drug profits by using a daigou.
Police allege the clients of the money-laundering organisation include several high-value targets of Australian law enforcement who are currently based overseas.
Daigous, which translates to "surrogate shoppers'', operate by sending out scores of shoppers into Australian shops and supermarkets to bulk buy high-value items such as baby formula, vitamins and designer handbags, and sending them to China for re-sale.
While they are often legitimate businesses, they are being targeted by the AFP who are investigating whether some daigou businesses are buying their goods using cash generated through the sale of drugs and other crimes.
Wang, who was arrested with two cooler bags each containing $500,000 outside the daigou in Auburn, is accused by police of being a cash collector for the syndicate.
Ma, who police allege is the Sydney-based co-ordinator of the alleged money-laundering operation, was arrested as he left a pokies pub in Ermington.
The two men were allegedly identified as part of a long-running joint investigation which has involved the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
Police will allege the two Sydney men funnelled millions of dollars from the sale of drugs through the daigou business on behalf of their alleged criminal clients. Investigations were continuing into whether the operators of the daigou knew their business was allegedly being used to launder dirty money.
Wang appeared via audiovisual link for a bail application on Tuesday, speaking frantically in Mandarin over the top of Magistrate Tim Keady as an interpreter tried to calm him down.
The prosecution argued Mr Wang, who had lived in Australia since 2006 on a visa, was at risk of fleeing the country if he was granted bail.
Mr Keady refused bail, citing Mr Wang's alleged "small but important part" in the organised syndicate.
"There are very large amounts of money involved and multiple alleged participants," Mr Keady said.
"He has offered no explanation as to how he allegedly came to be in possession of the $1.2 million."
Ma was also refused bail, with court documents revealing he had not made admissions to the offence in his police interview.
Speaking generally, AFP Federal Agent Geoff Hyde said money laundering networks help transnational serious organised crime groups access the profits from their Australian crimes by moving the proceeds offshore.
"Money laundering is a key enabler of organised crime and drug trafficking - and is a serious criminal enterprise in its own right," Mr Hyde said.
"That ability to move the money offshore enables international drug trafficking organisations to continue the cycle of importing drugs into Australia, selling them and accessing those profits by getting the proceeds of sales offshore."
Mr Hyde said while police will allege the heads of the money laundering network and many of their clients were overseas, they should not think they were untouchable by Australian law enforcement agencies.
"We are working closely with our partners to track their activities and make them accountable to the law. We aim to outsmart them, we will strip them of their dishonest wealth and we will dismantle their criminal networks."
State Crime Command's Organised Crime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Martin Fileman, said NSW Police would continue to work with their partners to dismantle international criminal networks operating in NSW.
"Our priority is to keep the people of this state safe from threats both locally and abroad," Det. Supt. Fileman said.
"Those who attempt to benefit from criminal activity in NSW should know that we are working closely with our partnering agencies to pull apart their operations and put them before the courts."
Wang and Ma will face Parramatta Local Court again in October.
Originally published as 'Dirty' cash: Cops seize $1.2m in Chinese shopper raid