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Money Laundering (ACT)

Money laundering is an act or acts that conceal the fact that money is the proceeds of crime. In the Australian Capital Territory, the offence is contained in the Crimes Act 1900.

The offence of money laundering

The Act states a person commits an offence if:

  • they deal with money or other property; and
  • the money or other property is proceeds of crime; and
  • they know or are reckless about the fact that the money or other property is derived or realised, directly or indirectly, from some form of illegal activity.

The maximum penalty is 1000 penalty units ($160,000), or 10 years imprisonment, or both.

“Deal with” includes to receive, possess, conceal, dispose of, bring into the ACT, money or other property.

“Proceeds of crime”  means any property derived or realised, directly or indirectly,  from an offence that carries a jail term of longer than 12 months. The offence can be committed inside or outside the ACT.

If a person deals with money or other property, and the money or property is proceeds of crime, the maximum penalty is 200 penalty units ($32,000), imprisonment for 2 years, or both. This is a strict liability offence, which means the offence will have been committed whether there was intent or not.

Examples of money laundering

Money laundering is a diverse activity that involves hiding, disguising or legitimising the origin of money used in or derived from criminal activity. It commonly takes place in 3 stages:

  1. the placement of funds generated by crime into the financial system;
  2. the separation of the funds from the source to avoid detection;
  3. the laundering of the funds back into the community to make the funds appear legitimate.

Examples include

  • splitting cash between bank accounts or making multiple deposits;
  • shifting money via multiple transactions over a short period of time;
  • shifting cash through a casino;
  • channelling money through illegitimate businesses or “shell” companies (inactive businesses created to hide genuine business ownership);
  • swapping shares in a company for shares in another company without a change in legal ownership.

R v Cole [2019]

In 2018, police raided Cole’s home and found almost 30g of cocaine and $101,900 in cash. He was convicted of drug possession and money laundering, receiving a 19-month prison sentence for the money laundering. The sentencing judge remarked: “The value of the proceeds of crime is an important consideration when determining the objective seriousness of the offence … Although the offence was constituted by the offender possessing proceeds of crime on only one day, his possession of the proceeds of crime must be considered in context. The position was not transitory. The circumstances of the possession were more permanent.”

R v Lang [2019]

Until 2013, Lang and her de facto partner Johnston lived in a home leased from ACT Housing and received government benefits. Between 2013 and 2016, Lang made deposits of between $1000 and $5000 into 9 bank accounts, She also bought two homes worth $600,000 and $820,000, paying substantial deposits. In 2013 she had registered as a sole trader undertaking sex work and begun to declare taxable income. From 2013 to 2015, the cash deposits made into her accounts significantly exceeded the declared taxable income from her business. In 2016, Johnston was caught in possession of heroin and cannabis and convicted of drug trafficking. The parties agreed Lang had received $175,000 from Johnston’s illicit drug dealings. Lang was sentenced to 23 months imprisonment, suspended after 8 months upon the start a 15-month good behaviour bond.

Defences to money laundering

A person can contest a money laundering charge by arguing, for instance, that:

  • they were unaware that the money was the proceeds of crime;
  • they did not receive, possess, conceal or dispose of the property;
  • the property did not originate from a crime;
  • they were acting under duress;
  • by dealing with the proceeds of crime, they were helping to enforce a law of the Commonwealth or a state or territory.

Commonwealth legislation

The Criminal Code Act 1995 and the Anti-Money Laundering And Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 both contain money-laundering offences.

Criminal Code Act 1995

This Act states a person commits an offence if the person deals with money or other property, and either:

  • the money or property is, and the person believes it to be, proceeds of crime; or
  • the person intends that the money or property will be used to commit a crime.

The penalties range from imprisonment for 25 years or a fine of 1500 penalty units ($333,000), or both, for the most serious offences, to a fine of 10 penalty units ($2200) for the least serious.

Anti-Money Laundering And Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006

This Act contains offences used to prosecute money laundering, in particular:

  • sections 53 and 55: movement of physical currency in and out of Australia;
  • sections 136-141: providing false information, using false documents or using a false customer name;
  • sections 142-143: conducting transactions to avoid reporting requirements.

For these offences the penalties range from imprisonment for 10 years or a fine of 10,000 penalty units ($2,220,000), or both, for the most serious offences, to imprisonment for 2 years, or 120 penalty units ($26,540), or both, for the least serious.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Sally Crosswell

This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

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