SYDNEY, Australia - The Australian Federal Police, at the request of the Chinese government, have seized a large quantity of property belonging to two Chinese nationals, who are suspected laundering money in Australia that has been derived from crimes committed in China.
More than $8.5 million in jewellery, vehicles and properties in Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast, have been seized as part of the proceeds of crime investigation.
The federal police body said it had received a request in 2016 from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security to assist in identifying possible Chinese nationals involved in illegal activity.
The Australian police said Thursday they will allege two Chinese nationals travelled to Australia in 2015 to establish shell companies to transfer proceeds of crime and purchase residential and development property in Australia. Chinese authorities allege the money was raised in China through the defrauding of investors.
Police investigators began seizing the properties, vehicles and luxury items on Wednesday and the searches carried over to Thursday. Simultaneous search warrants were executed in the Melbourne suburbs of Lower Plenty, Hawthorn and the Melbourne CBD. A further warrant was executed in the Sydney suburb of Waterloo/Zetland.
Investigations into the individuals involved are ongoing.
"As people attempt to evade foreign governments and police agencies, the Australian Federal Police is committed to working with our international counterparts to stop proceeds of crime being laundered in Australia," AFP Acting National Manager Organised Crime, Commander Bruce Hill said Thursday.
"This kind of activity, where significant criminal proceeds are moved into Australian assets, can erode the level playing field for Australian homebuyers and small business owners. This ripple effect impacts our whole community; it is far from a victimless crime," he said.
"Our message to people thinking about laundering proceeds of crime in Australia is clear, your money and assets are not hidden from the Australian Federal Police and our international partners. We will catch you."
This is the third separate investigation in the past month involving Chinese nationals allegedly creating shell companies, laundering money and evading tax. In October 2018 the Australian Federal Police restrained three residential properties and two bank accounts relating to proceeds of crime with an estimated value of $2 million.
The law enforcement agency said in a statement Thursday, it will continue to disrupt transnational money laundering groups and demonstrate that Australia is a hostile environment for criminals seeking to hide their illegally-obtained assets.