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Welfare recipients found with $75,000 cash and 15 kilograms of cannabis

Image of Cannabis plant

AUSTRAC information helped initiate an investigation that resulted in the arrest of three suspects and the seizure of approximately 15 kilograms of cannabis. Authorities restrained a number of assets, including AUD100,000 in cash suspected to be the proceeds of crime, a property and numerous vehicles.

One suspect was sentenced to four years and 10 months imprisonment. The other suspect received a suspended sentence of two years and nine months imprisonment.

Information held by authorities indicated that a woman (suspect A) and husband (suspect B) had accumulated substantial assets, which was inconsistent with their declared income.

Additionally, a credit union submitted a suspicious matter report (SMR) detailing the financial activities of the suspects. AUSTRAC forwarded the SMR to authorities, which detailed the following:

  • suspects A and B held a joint account with the reporting entity
  • suspect A telephoned the credit union and indicated that she wanted to withdraw AUD15,000 cash from her personal account
  • credit union staff advised the suspect that withdrawing AUD15,000 cash required the completion of a significant cash transaction report (SCTR)
  • over two consecutive days, suspect A attended the credit union branch and withdrew AUD9,800 and AUD5,200 respectively.

The cash withdrawals totalled AUD15,000 and appeared to be 'structured' into two separate transactions to avoid the SCTR requirement. Subsequent investigation of the account activity by social welfare investigators identified that:

  • suspects A and B received government welfare payments
  • a large number of transactions were made at a casino
  • the account received large cheque deposits.

Analysis of AUSTRAC information identified additional SMRs submitted by a credit union. The SMRs included the following information:

  • suspect A was a signatory to a credit union account held in a relative's name
  • suspect A periodically deposited cash into the relative's account. Over a one-month period the relative's account received four cash deposits totalling AUD20,000 structured into amounts ranging from AUD2,000 to AUD9,000
  • suspect A attended a branch of the credit union with her relative and they deposited AUD9,000 and AUD6,000 cash respectively into their personal accounts, at different counters
  • credit union staff observed that the relative appeared 'nervous' while conducting cash deposits
  • a cheque for AUD50,000 was withdrawn by the relative from his account to purchase a motor vehicle.

Enquiries conducted by authorities identified that:

  • over a six-year period approximately AUD1.37 million was deposited into the accounts of suspects A and B
  • the suspects purchased numerous assets including a house, two motor vehicles and three motorcycles
  • suspect B frequently travelled overseas.

Analysis of AUSTRAC information showed that in the same year the SMRs were reported to AUSTRAC, suspect B completed an international currency transfer report (ICTR), which indicated he was carrying cash worth approximately AUD16,000 when he departed Australia for the Philippines.

Under the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988, international currency transfer reports (ICTRs) were submitted when currency (coin or paper money) of AUD10,000 or more (or the foreign equivalent) was carried, mailed or shipped into or out of Australia.

Enquiries showed that suspects A and B's income did not support their lifestyle. The SMRs, combined with information held by authorities, prompted law enforcement to investigate the suspects' unexplained wealth.

Further law enforcement investigations revealed that suspects A and B had obtained approximately 15 kilograms of cannabis and were arranging for a courier (suspect C) to transport the cannabis interstate.

Law enforcement officers intercepted a motor vehicle and found the cannabis concealed in the side panels of the vehicle. Suspect C was arrested and charged with possessing cannabis for sale or supply.

A search warrant was executed at suspect A and B's home. Authorities seized approximately AUD75,000 cash, numerous receipts for goods worth AUD400,000 purchased using cash, and various documents that indicated suspects A and B were trafficking in cannabis. Suspects A and B were arrested.

Suspect A pleaded guilty to:

  • aiding, abetting or procuring another to traffic in a substance that is a controlled drug under the Criminal Code Act 1995
  • jointly possessing approximately AUD75,000 being the proceeds of crime under the Criminal Code Act
  • jointly dealing with approximately AUD330,000 being the proceeds of crime under the Criminal Code Act
  • possessing a motor vehicle being the proceeds of crime under the Criminal Code Act.

Suspect A was sentenced to four years and 10 months imprisonment.

Suspect B died and court proceedings against him were discontinued.

Suspect C pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis for sale or supply and received a suspended sentence of two years and nine months imprisonment.

Law enforcement restrained a house, two motor vehicles, three motorcycles, approximately AUD75,000 in cash and AUD25,000 in a bank account.

The social welfare investigation revealed both suspect A and B had each accumulated debts of AUD69,944.45 for welfare payments they were not entitled to.

Offence
  • Drug trafficking
  • Money laundering
  • Fraud (welfare)
Customer Individual
Industry Banking (ADIs)
Channel Physical
Report type
  • ICTR
  • SMR
Jurisdiction Domestic and international – Philippines
Designated service Account and deposit-taking services
Indicators
  • Account activity inconsistent with customer profile
  • Customer and relative(s) attend the same branch and make structured cash deposits into their own accounts at the same time
  • Customer is a signatory to a relative's account and makes large cash deposits to the account
  • High-value cash deposits
  • Regular or multiple deposits below the AUD10,000 reporting threshold (that is, structured cash deposits)
  • Third-party or relative appears to be nervous while conducting transactions
Last modified: 30/07/2015 15:35