AFP busts alleged money laundering syndicate

26 October 2023

Written by: Isabella OBrien

Over $200 million in illegal funds have allegedly been laundered by criminals through the Changjiang Currency Exchange over three years.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have accused seven members of an alleged Chinese organised crime syndicate of secretly running an underworld money laundering association through the Changjiang Currency Exchange.

Over the past three years, the supposed Long River money laundering syndicate have been accused by the AFP of helping criminals launder almost $229 million in illegal funds in stores across the nation.

The members allegedly coached criminal customers on how to create fake documents to cover the origins of the money and purchased false passports for $200,000 each. The AFP believed these could have been used to flee the country.

Of the seven people arrested four are male and three are female, all aged between 33 and 40. Four are Chinese nationals and three are Australian citizens.

Suspicion of illegal activity arose when the company opened new stores in Sydney during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

AFP Eastern Command Assistant Commissioner Stephen Dametto said “Sydney was a ghost town” during the pandemic and “alarm bells went off” when they noticed the Changjiang Currency Exchange were making updates to their new and existing shopfronts.

“It was just a gut feeling – it didn’t feel right. Many international students and tourists had returned home, and there was no apparent business case for Changjiang Currency Exchange to expand,” he said.

In August 2022, Taskforce Avarus established Operation Avarus-Nightwolf, an AFP-led money laundering force to conduct an investigation. Over 14 months, the operation was able to link the criminal group to Changjiang Currency Exchange.

The illegal behaviour was covered by appearing as a legitimate and lawful money exchange company.

“The reason why this investigation was so unique and complex was that this alleged syndicate was operating in plain sight with shiny shopfronts across the country – it was not operating in the shadows like other money laundering organisations,” Commissioner Dametto said.

The seven accused members are expected to appear in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today.

Photo: Money laundering by Focal Foto available HERE and used under a Creative Commons license. This image has not been modified.