A highly-sophisticated gang of Chinese money launderers, known as the Long River syndicate, has been exposed and taken down by Australian law enforcement. The Changjiang Currency Exchange, which operated as a front for the criminals, allegedly moved around $10 billion offshore over a span of three years. The syndicate used legitimate shop fronts to conceal their activities, which included laundering money for organized crime groups involved in drug trafficking, illegal tobacco, and fraud.
In addition to complex money laundering operations, the Long River syndicate also offered services to organized criminals, instructing them on how to create fake paper trails to avoid detection by authorities. The network had 12 centers across Australia and was considered one of the largest independently-owned remitters in the country.
During a 14-month-long operation, Australian Federal Police (AFP) arrested seven alleged ringleaders, consisting of four Chinese nationals and three Australian citizens, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The authorities seized almost $230 million in dirty money, but it is believed that the actual amount laundered is significantly higher.
The arrested individuals allegedly used the proceeds to purchase extravagant properties valued at $10 million, Rolex watches priced at $94,000, and Mercedes SUVs costing $400,000. It is even reported that they had plans to use the cash to develop a suburb near Sydney's second airport for further money laundering activities.
The AFP conducted raids on 20 properties in major cities across Australia, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth. The investigation originally began when AFP officers noticed the syndicate opening new shop fronts in Sydney's business district during lockdown, where other businesses were closing. This suspicious activity raised red flags among law enforcement personnel.
The Changjiang Currency Exchange's website continues to claim its legitimacy and compliance with regulations. However, the police bust has revealed the criminal activities taking place under the guise of a legal operation.
The dismantling of this highly-sophisticated Chinese money laundering gang is a significant victory for Australian law enforcement, uncovering a network that operated in plain sight but managed to evade detection for years. The investigation involved over 40 AFP officers, as well as forensic accountants and undercover operatives, demonstrating the complexity and scale of the operation.