SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said on Thursday it had frozen properties worth A$17.3 million ($11.9 million), including a “supersized mansion” as part of an investigation into money laundering by Chinese nationals.
The investigation – titled Operation Gethen – followed request from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) to identify two Chinese nationals suspected of laundering proceeds of crime in Australia, the AFP said in a statement.
Chinese authorities believe the money was raised in China through real estate and bank loan fraud, the AFP said, without identifying the individuals.
Australian police allege the two Chinese nationals moved about A$23 million of fraudulently obtained funds from China since late 2012, with the proceeds of crime used to purchase or develop numerous properties in Melbourne and Tasmania.
The AFP on Tuesday restrained seven properties, including a newly constructed mansion in Melbourne and a 3,000-acre farmland on Tasmania’s north-east coast. The move means the properties cannot be sold by the owners, and may be confiscated and sold if ordered by the court.
The latest investigation brings the total amount of frozen assets to about A$50 million since the AFP signed a Joint Agency Agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (MPS) in 2017.
“The AFP 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,” it added.
($1 = 1.4499 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)