An important moment for the AFP
In what Australian media has described as “the most important” arrest in two decades for the nation’s law enforcement, a warrant issued by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has resulted in the arrest of the reputed leader of an Asian crime syndicate.
Netherlands police arrested Tse Chi Lop at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport last Friday. The 56-year-old Chinese-born Canadian national is on the list of the world’s most wanted fugitives. Tse allegedly runs “The Company”, a crime group made up of five triad gangs known as Wo Shing Wo, Bamboo Union, Big Circle Gang, Sun Yee On, and 14K. According to the AFP, the gang is responsible for up to 70% of illegal drugs to have entered Australia over the past 20 years.
Authorities believe The Company utilized the gambling industry to clean its illicitly obtained funds. Its operations included money laundering through casinos and the infiltration of casino junket operations.
The Company and its crimes
Authorities believe Tse and his gang are responsible for smuggling methamphetamine, heroin, and ketamine to at least a dozen countries. The drugs reached locations in Japan, New Zealand, and the South Pacific region. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that the syndicate could have earned as much as $17.7bn from meth alone in 2018.
According to the AFP, the gang launders vast amounts of illicit funds through poorly regulated casinos in the Mekong region. Police also believe The Company has infiltrated casino junket operations as another avenue for cleaning money. Some investigators have linked this to money laundering activity taking place at Australia’s Crown Resorts casinos.
Australian authorities now expect Tse’s extradition back to the country to face trial.
Links to Crown Resorts
In 2019, Australian dailies The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, together with news show 60 Minutes, completed an investigation into money laundering at Crown Resorts casinos.
crime syndicate was able to launder its funds through Crown casinos in Melbourne and Perth
They found Crown had partnered with junket operators infiltrated by The Company. The casino operator allegedly did this in order to increase its high-roller business. In turn, the crime syndicate was able to launder its funds through Crown casinos in Melbourne and Perth.
Later that year, leaked footage from Melbourne’s Crown Casino showed an alleged instance of money laundering. In the video, an unidentified man handed over wads of cash made up of AUS$50 ($34) and AUS$100 ($68) notes in the casino’s Suncity junket room. The three whistleblowers who released the footage claimed organized crime members were laundering millions of dollars through the casino.