Uni student caught in ‘ cuckoo smurfing’ cash- laundering scam
A UNIVERSITY student who asked his multi-millionaire father to send him money unwittingly ended up in the middle of an international money-laundering scam run by an organised crime syndicate.
And he and his father had to go to court to get their money back.
Rommy Fernandez, 25, was studying commerce at the University of NSW when his wealthy Indonesian father attempted to transfer $500,000 to his bank account via an Indonesian-based money remitter.
But evidence before the NSW Supreme Court showed the remitter was in cahoots with an Australianbased organised crime syndicate and used an unwitting Mr Fernandez to launder money in a process known as “cuckoo smurfing”. According to court documents, the money given by Mr Fernandez’s father to the remitter was never transferred to Australia.
Instead, the money exchanger contacted the organised crime syndicate in Australia, which transferred money it had made from criminal activities into Mr Fernandez’s account in an attempt to launder it. The clean money was then sent to the syndicate.
The ruse came undone on June 30, 2015, when police raided an Australian hotel room and arrested Leonard Dharmananda Linggo and Kim Ching Cheung, who were found with $1 million cash and notebooks with records of the cash deposits and details of Mr Fernandez’s accounts.
Linggo and Cheung admitted to having roles in the syndicate and pleaded guilty to money laundering and structuring offences.
But, after Australian Federal Police froze the accounts and seized the money, Mr Fernandez had to fight a court battle to get the money back.
Justice Simpson ordered the money be handed back after making a number of findings, including that Mr Fernandez was unwittingly duped by an organised crime syndicate.
“Forfeiture of the property of an innocent victim does not ... in any way operate as deterrent to those who use the property of innocent victims to achieve their criminal ends,” Justice Simpson told the court.