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Australian sleuths to join probe into drug money laundering

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Accused persons ran legitimate foreign exchange offices: probe

The Australian investigators landed in the Capital on Saturday to join the probe into an international drug money laundering syndicate busted on Thursday with the arrest of five people in a synchronised operation conducted in both the countries in coordination with the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The ED arrested the purported prime accused Paramdeep Singh Arora along with his brother Gagandeep in Amritsar, whereas their alleged associate Gaurav Gupta was held at Karol Bagh in Delhi. The agency has obtained seven days custody of the accused persons.

The agency probe has revealed that the accused persons ran legitimate foreign exchange offices, and were also into large-scale genuine transfer of funds on behalf of their clients in India to various countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Germany.

However, based on the documents received from Australia, phone interceptions and Australian bank transaction papers seized during the searches, the agency has strong reasons to suspect that at the behest of drug trafficking syndicates in Australia, the accused would “mix” the drug money with large pools of legitimate transactions to evade detection.

Preliminary ED investigations have indicated that huge amounts originating from Australia would be routed to at least three Hong Kong-based companies for further transfers in different countries.

The alleged mastermind was a director in one of the firms, whereas the other two (now under the Australian authorities’ scrutiny), Gulshan Kumar and Sanjeev Saini, had allegedly set up the other two companies in Hong Kong.

Accused Gaurav Gupta also ran a forex office in Karol Bagh.

Modus operandi

Interestingly, the usual modus operandi employed to legitimise the ill-gotten money was to first raise a demand for supply of goods from the Hong Kong-based companies, show a breach of contract on account of non-supply and then claim huge compensations for the same to receive the amount in “white”.

The agencies have also been able to establish the Indian operators’ purported links with those identified in Australia.

It is alleged that Paramdeep had a wide network of fund collectors in Europe, Australia and the United States through whom the money would be laundered.

However, the accused had recently started exercising caution after the U.S. federal and local law-enforcement officials earlier this month conducted a massive operation in Los Angeles against money laundering operators working for Mexican drug syndicates.

The Australian Federal Police has launched a sustained drive against drug cartels and drug money launders, especially after the agency smashed an international syndicate with the arrest of 17 people and seizure of a huge consignment of “ecstasy” drug in August 2008.

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Printable version | Jul 20, 2018 7:19:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/australian-sleuths-to-join-probe-into-drug-money-laundering/article6453528.ece