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Terrorists taking cut of millions in drug money

Posted on

January 23, 2014

Terrorist groups are profiting as part of a money-laundering operation  involving the hundreds of millions of dollars Australians  spend  on illegal  drugs.

The revelations come as Australia’s biggest money-laundering probe, Project  Eligo, has identified hundreds of unwitting Australian residents being duped  into helping launder the drug money overseas, including funds generated by  outlaw motorcycle groups and people-smuggling operations.


The money-laundering investigation has uncovered 40 separate money-laundering  operations across Australia that are involved in moving hundreds of millions of  dollars in drug money offshore.

The operation has so far seized $26 million in dirty cash, restrained $30  million of houses and other assets funded by drug money and intercepted drug  shipments totalling more than  $530 million dollars.

  It’s understood that dozens of ”exchange houses” or money-laundering  centres in the Middle East and Asia are then used to wash and distribute the  money to overseas crime bosses.

It is believed at least one of the exchange houses used in the Australian  operation delivers a cut from every dollar it launders to Lebanese militant  group Hezbollah, whose military wing has been proscribed in Australia as a  terrorist organisation.

Last year, the US government identified two Lebanese exchange houses, Kassem  Rmeiti and Halawi Exchange, as drug money cleaners financing Hezbollah.

Taskforce Eligo has for at least 12 months been monitoring the businesses  behind the movement of drug money from Australia. The process has led to the  identification of almost 130 serious organised-crime figures previously unknown  to law-enforcement agencies.

The revelations about the taskforce come with the federal government planning  to revamp the nation’s asset confiscation and unexplained wealth regime.  Most  state governments and police forces are failing to back a push from federal  agencies to fully utilise seizure powers.

One senior police source said that while Australia was good at tracking and  freezing drug money heading overseas, it struggled to do the same thing to  proceeds of crime locally.

Acting Australian Crime Commission operations manager Col Blanch said the  taskforce investigation had tracked ”people-smuggling money …  and bikie  money”. Most of the funds moved involve the proceeds of drug trafficking.

A major impediment to the local struggle against organised crime has also  been significant cuts made over the past three years to the ACC budget, forcing  it to rely on the resources of other agencies.

Mr Blanch said that due to the scale of the operation, his agency had to call  for the help of state and federal police and the US Drug Enforcement  Administration.

”The amount of money and targets overwhelmed us. So all the agencies had to  come working together.

”We saw this network of people whose job was to deliver money to banks,” Mr  Blanch said. ”It was just never ending. We were regularly finding bags of  $500,000 and $400,000.”

In one case, the ACC tracked a Mexican man working for a South American  syndicate travelling to a property at Diggers Rest in rural Victoria. There,  Vietnamese drug distributors were to give the Mexican a large amount of cash to  be laundered offshore.

”People are paying ridiculous prices for drugs. The South Americans are  obviously realising the potential for large profits,”  Mr Blanch said.

One of the ways drug money can be laundered offshore involves crime figures  targeting Australian residents – mostly foreign nationals and students – who are  expecting a foreign bank, remittance service or business overseas to send money  into their local account. Instead of this occurring, the crime figures deposit  Australian drug money into the bank accounts of the unsuspecting victims and  request money from the the bank or business overseas.

The scheme usually needs trust-based informal banking, remittance and  exchange house services – commonly found in Vietnam, China and the Middle East –  to be infiltrated by money-laundering networks.

Mr Blanch said that people in Australia needed to be aware their bank  accounts could be exploited in such a fashion.

”We are trying to educate these innocent people. If we have new arrivals in  the country, we want to educate them. If they are moving their money this way  you risk being exploited by serious organised criminals.”

Another scheme involves the identification cards of foreign students being  copied and used to set up local bank accounts.

”We have found the students have been remitting large amounts of money when  they are not even in Australia.”






About Doc

Spreading the word about the dangers of methamphetamine.

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