The Courier-Mail

CRISIS SPECIAL

Following the drug money trail and the ‘superfacil­itators’ who make it happen

- SPECIAL REPORT PAUL TOOHEY

IN THE escalating global war on drugs, authoritie­s now refer to the rapid transfer of illicit “value”, rather than “money”.

Controller­s, or “superfacil­itators”, provide money-laundering services to crime syndicates eager to disguise and hide large transfers of money for drug deals.

Controller­s receive high commission­s to take the headache out of laundering.

They provide the means to move payments across multiple jurisdicti­ons through financial black holes and transactio­nal dead-ends that won’t stack up in court as evidence. The Australian Crime Commission said that was partly because virtual currencies such as bitcoin bypassed regular banks and were almost untraceabl­e.

It is also the increasing use of Hawalas, a traditiona­l Middle Eastern and North African contra system, where drugs are traded for things of equal value, such as prime Australian real estate.

That still requires the Australian drug dealers to enter the property market, unseen, to buy real estate for themselves or to pay off their suppliers.

It can work in several ways, including putting property in the name of “cleanskin” relatives or associates, hoping it draws no attention.

Or the syndicate acquires property by employing a (usually) complicit lawyer, who creates an offshore shell company. This company appears to provide a loan to a syndicate member to buy property but the syndicate is in fact borrowing its own illicit funds.

The ACC said the stable Australian real estate market held as much appeal to transnatio­nal crime syndicates as it did to genuine homeowners and investors.

Suppliers might also take payment in shares, buy art and gold, or invest in the anonymous world of the global currency market (a Perth-based currency trader was sus-

H TI LI U M RR IT EYE O N D LY

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