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Money Laundering (Qld)

Money laundering is an act or acts that conceal the fact that money is the proceeds of crime.

The offence of money laundering

The Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act 2002 states a person commits an offence if they knowingly or recklessly:

  • engage, directly or indirectly, in a transaction involving money or other property that is tainted property;
  • receive, possess, dispose of or bring into Queensland money or other property that is tainted property;
  • conceal or disguise the source, existence, nature, location, ownership or control of tainted property.

Tainted property is property used or intended to be used in an offence, or derived from an offence. This includes benefits a person derives when their crimes are depicted in a movie, book, newspaper, magazine, radio or television production, or in any other electronic form, or via live or recorded entertainment of any kind. It also includes any benefit a criminal gains by expressing thoughts, opinions or emotions about their offending.

A charge can be about one act or several acts committed at the same time or different times, or about tainted property related to one or several offences committed by one person or several people.

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 he 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).

What must be proven

The prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was involved in a transaction of money or property, and that money or property was tainted property. It will need to show that the person knowingly or recklessly received, possessed, disposed of, concealed or disguised, or brought into Queensland the tainted property.

The prosecution is not required to prove what crime the money or property was from.

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 knowingly or recklessly receive, possess, dispose of, conceal or disguise, or bring  into Queensland the tainted property;
  • the property did not originate from a crime;
  • they were acting under duress.

Penalties for money laundering

The penalties for money laundering are severe. The courts can also freeze or seize assets that they suspect have been acquired illegitimately.

If a person knowingly engages in money laundering, they face a maximum penalty of 3000 penalty units ($399,000) or 20 years imprisonment. “Knowingly” means the person knew or ought to have known the property was tainted property.

If a person recklessly engages in money laundering, they face a maximum penalty of 1500 penalty units ($199,500) or 10 years imprisonment. ‘Recklessly” means the person was aware there was a substantial risk the property was tainted property and unjustifiably took that risk.

If a person receives, possesses, disposes of, brings into Queensland, conceals or disguises property that could reasonably be suspected of being tainted property, they face a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units ($13,300) or 2 years imprisonment.


The cases below are examples of how money laundering can be carried out.

R v Hannan; Ex parte Attorney General (2018)

In this case, Hannan was handed the proceeds of a drug trafficking operation run by her husband. In an attempt to legitimise the income, she created false invoices and deposited the money into the couple’s business account. In a period of just over 2 years, she created 45 false invoices totalling $649,189. The invoices included 3 to a legitimate business which had no business dealings with the Hannans, and 18 to companies for whom her husband had worked prior to most of the trafficking. Hannan received a 3-year suspended sentence. On appeal by the Attorney-General, she was ordered to serve 5 months of that sentence in prison.

R v Kelly (2016)

In this case, Kelly orchestrated and co-ordinated fraudulent schemes and induced 36 people to invest $1,332,550. He laundered the money for his own personal gain, using a system of bank transfers, cheques and cash withdrawals in a bid to ensure it could not be traced by the investors. Six people were engaged as “cash mules” to withdraw money and pass it on to others. Two people were engaged to open bank accounts and allow funds to be transferred in those accounts for the payment of $250 per transaction. Only $209,968 of the investors’ money was returned to investors, including $159,000 returned by banks which became suspicious of the activities. Kelly was sentenced to 8 years and 7 months imprisonment.

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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