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Australia: Cash laundering a huge criminal growth industry
Nov 7, 2011

A TREND is emerging for criminal syndicates to exist solely to launder black cash, with massive growth of organised crime needing new ways to hide ill-gotten gains.

In the keynote speech at a money-laundering conference in Sydney today, Australian Crime Commission chief executive John Lawler will outline law enforcement's fight against the trade in dirty cash. ''We know that organised crime is all about money. The motivator for taking the extreme risks, breaking the law and causing destruction and harm to others, is greed and wealth,'' he will say, according to a draft speech provided to The Age.


''And there are significant profits to be made. Revenue from cocaine trafficking in Australia can generate mark-ups in the vicinity of 8000 per cent.'' Organised crime is estimated to gouge $10 billion to $20 billion from Australia annually and the United Nations estimates that about 5 per cent of global GDP - as much as $2 trillion - is laundered every year. So significant is the growth of such syndicates that the ACC launched a special investigation last year to target criminal groups doing nothing but cleaning other people's money. As a result, two Sydney women allegedly helping textiles companies avoid more than $800,000 in tax were charged, as was a Sydney woman suspected of laundering more than $2.4 million. While banks, stockmarkets and crooked accountants are still used to funnel money offshore, syndicates are increasingly using new markets to avoid police detection.


''I don't want us to be constrained in where we look for organised criminal activity - because there is no chance that the criminals are sticking to the rule book,'' Mr Lawler will say.

''Just as you hear about the many ways a drug trafficker will seek to hide their illicit commodity in everything from car parts to seafood … you can bet that a money launderer can invent a new way to disguise and move money.'' Earlier this year the ACC joined the federal Environment Department to investigate a criminal syndicate trafficking an endangered species of wildlife. One of the elements the ACC is examining is links between the syndicate and the international network of money launderers.


''There are vast sums of money passing through thousands of small, medium and large enterprise, and through the delivery of government services, on a daily basis and each of these sectors is vulnerable to exploitation by organised crime,'' Mr Lawler's speech says. The law enforcement response is increasingly relying on new techniques such as analysing offshore money movement to detect illicit funds. Another method comes through the ACC's new fusion centre with access to the databases of federal police, the Tax Office, Customs, ASIC, Centrelink and the Immigration Department. Established in July last year, it has identified almost 60 new people suspected of organised crime, with some believed to be laundering more than $100 million every year.

Dylan Welch



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