A 39-year-old man has been stripped of approximately $1 million worth of assets, including land, vehicles, motorbikes, a fishing boat and cash, as a result of WA Supreme Court orders following an unexplained wealth investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
The AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) launched Operation Enguri in May 2016 over suspicions the WA man had no legitimate source of income, but owned two properties, vehicles and a boat, and was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on his lifestyle.
After an extensive investigation, and civil court proceedings led by the CACT’s litigators, the overwhelming evidence presented to the man and his legal representatives was such that he agreed to forfeit his assets to the Commonwealth. Court orders were obtained on 23 October 2020.
Police suspect the man, from the northern Perth suburb of Landsdale, has links to organised crime networks operating in Perth and is criminally associated with multiple Outlaw Motorcycle Crime Gangs (OMCGs).
Targeting the criminal economy by confiscating criminal assets, and removing the profit from crime, is one of a number of strategies deployed by the AFP and its partners to disrupt organised crime and deliver maximum damage to the criminal environment.
The Commonwealth’s proceeds of crime laws provide powerful tools for the restraint of both proceeds and instruments of crime, as well as financial penalty and unexplained wealth orders, based on a civil standard of proof.
These laws can also operate when there is no related criminal investigation or prosecution, as was the case in this unexplained wealth investigation.
AFP CACT acting national manager Stefan Jerga said this case sends a clear warning to those trying to hide their criminality, or live a lifestyle they cannot lawfully justify.
“If you accumulate wealth that you cannot explain and link to lawful sources, law enforcement will target your assets,” he said. “Where you try to disguise your criminal conduct or the true ownership of your assets, the AFP and its partners will outsmart you.
“Our team of investigators, forensic accountants and litigators are relentless in their pursuit of justice, and are highly skilled in identifying whether a person’s total wealth exceeds the wealth they have lawfully acquired.”
Operation Enguri included assessments of the 39-year-old’s financial activities, as well as those of his relatives and associates.
Investigations revealed the man had a trust structure set up in a bid to hide his assets and was using family members and other associates to make funds appear legitimate.
Between mid-2010 and early 2017 the man’s assets were valued in the millions. Yet he declared a total taxable income between 2010 and 2016 of just $140,502.
The AFP seized and restrained several assets during the proceedings, with investigators executing search warrants at residences and commercial premises linked to the man in May 2017.
Seized items included three black Harley Davidson motorcycles, a Bayliner Trophy Pro Walkaround fishing boat and trailer, a 2017 white Toyota LandCruiser, a 2015 black Toyota LandCruiser and nearly $80,000 in cash.
The AFP-led CACT brings together the resources and expertise of the AFP, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, and Australian Border Force. Together, these agencies trace, restrain and ultimately confiscate criminal assets.
The man’s seized assets can now be sold, with the proceeds placed in the Commonwealth’s Confiscated Assets Account (CAA). Funds in the CAA are then redistributed by the Minister for Home Affairs to support crime prevention, law enforcement and other community initiatives.