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Commonwealth Money Laundering Penalties

The Commonwealth Money Laundering Offence provisions are found at Sections 400.3 – 400.9 of the Criminal Code.

The offences operate on a sliding scale of seriousness.

The first consideration is how much money is involved in the offence. The offences range from less than $1,000 to amounts in excess of $1m and the penalties increase significantly as the amount increases.

The second consideration is what level of knowledge the accused had with regard to the illegally obtained money. The offences are broken down into three levels of knowledge; negligence, recklessness and intention.

What it means to be negligent or reckless with regard to these offences is defined by the Criminal Code.

Maximum penalties

The table below demonstrates the potential maximum penalties for each type of money-laundering offence.

Section of the Criminal Code 400.3 400.4 400.5 400.6 400.7 400.8
Value of money/property $1million or more $100,000 or more $50,000 or more $10,000 or more $1000 or more Any value
Penalty Ss (1) Intention 25 years and/or 1500 p/units 20 years and/or 1200 p/units 15 years and/or 900 p/units 10 years and/or 600 p/units 5 years and/or 300 p/units 12 months and/or 60 p/units
Ss (2) Reckless 12 years and/or 720 p/units 10 years and/or 600 p/units 7 years and/or 420 p/units 5 years and/or 300 p/units 2 years and/or 120 p/units 6 months and/or 30 p/units
Ss(3) Negligent 5 years and/or 300 p/units 4 years and/or 240 p/units 3 years and/or 180 p/units 2 years and/or 120 p/units 12 months and/or 60 p/units> 10 p/units


A defendant is able to defend charges of money-laundering if they are able to show that they had no reasonable grounds of knowing that the property/money was the proceeds of crime.

If the court is unable to find the defendant guilty of a more serious type of money laundering offence, they may still be able to find the defendant guilty of one of the lesser offences. This may occur for example when they cannot be sure exactly what the value of the property concerned is.

Matters of this type are complex and may involve significant negotiations with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions as to the appropriate charge.

Related offences

Aside from the offence which enabled the money to be obtained in the first place, there are often similar or related offences which are charged alongside money-laundering offences. The Financial Transactions Reporting Act 1988 (Cth) and more recent Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 contain provisions which prohibit the transfer of amounts of money in excess of $10,000 into or out of Australia without the filing of the appropriate report and offences for any attempts to hide such transactions. Offences of this type can carry up to five years imprisonment.


Upon conviction for a money-laundering offence, the Crown can make an application to have the property or money seized by the Commonwealth. There is a limited opportunity to resist applications made by the Crown for the forfeiture of the property/money depending upon any hardship that may be suffered, the use to which the money was to be put and the nature of the offence.

What to do next?

Armstrong Legal has a number of solicitors with specific expertise in this complex area of criminal law. You need a solicitor who understands how these offences operate and how best to work with the prosecuting agencies to ensure the best possible outcome for you.

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