Australian money laundering operation may have links to Beijing

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Posted on: June 9, 2022, 03:12h.

Last update: June 9, 2022, 4:10 a.m.

A Chinese money laundering syndicate with its finger on illicit global financial flows is fueling organized crime in Australia, Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Reece Kershaw said this week.

Chen Organization
Ming Chai, the cousin of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, speaking at a business forum in China in 2013. He was on board a private jet attacked by Australian authorities in 2016, along with Tom Zhou, a chief suspected of the crime. (Image: WSJ)

Australian authorities have long been concerned about the alleged link between organized crime and ultra-wealthy individuals with ties to the Chinese Communist Party. It is also of concern whether the proceeds of crime are used to promote party interests in the country.

Kershaw said criminal groups have been infiltrated and aided by hostile foreign governments to launder money and import illegal substances into Australia.

A former client of the syndicate, known as the “Chen Organization”, is Ming Chai, the cousin of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Another is Simon Pan, a high-flying brothel owner and suspected human trafficker, who was named in recent regulatory investigations into casino operators Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment.

Also on the list is Alvin Chau, former CEO of Macau mega-junket Suncity. Chau is accused in Macau of leading a criminal syndicate, offering illegal proxy online betting from the Philippines and money laundering.

Five Eyes

Kershaw was addressing a Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group meeting in Sydney. The “Five Eyes” – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States – share intelligence to target transnational organized crime.

State actors and citizens of some nations use our countries to the detriment of our sovereignty and our economies,” he tells the audience. “The long shadow of organized crime and state aggression contributes to this increase.”

“For AFP, geopolitics and regional instability continue to influence our strategic priorities,” he added.

Kershaw said intelligence compiled by law enforcement in Australia, Canada and the United States suggests that Chinese companies supply most of the precursor chemicals used to manufacture illegal drugs in the Australian market.

Precursors are substances used in the illicit manufacture of drugs that may also have legitimate commercial and industrial uses.

Kershaw suggested that Beijing was turning a blind eye to the illicit flow of these substances into Australia.

“Mr. Chinatown”

The Chen organization has been under investigation by Australian authorities since 2016, he said. The operation is believed to have moved hundreds of millions of dollars from a nondescript house in suburban Melbourne to China and across the world.

Xi’s cousin Chai has been on Australian authorities’ radar since 2016, when federal agents raided a private jet bound for Crown Melbourne on suspicion of money laundering.

Chai was one of the passengers on the jet, along with their target, Tom Zhou, aka “Mr Chinatown”, a crime boss and junket operator wanted by Interpol.

Chai has not been charged with any crime.

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