Police seize luxury cars, $250,000 cash and firearms in $7.3 million Remuera raid
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Six people have been arrested and millions in assets seized following a significant money laundering investigation in Auckland.
Police executed search warrants at addresses in Remuera, East Tamaki Heights, Papatoetoe and Karaka today.
Operation Menelaus - which targeted money laundering - has been underway since the beginning of the year.
As part of the operation, police put a restraint on three Remuera properties worth more than $7.3 million in total.
At these locations, police found a total of $250,000 in cash and have frozen a further total of $727,000 in numerous bank accounts.
Police have also seized a number of luxury European vehicles including a $280,000 Bentley Bentayga, a $120,000 Mercedes GLS, a Porsche Cayenne and a Mercedes C-Class.
All six people who were arrested are expected to appear in the Auckland District Court later today on a range of charges, including the following:
• A 38-year-old male faces 22 charges, including 20 counts of money laundering.
• A 41-year-old female faces nine charges of money laundering.
• A 65-year-old female faces six charges of money laundering and a charge of structuring under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act.
• A 35-year-old male faces three charges of money laundering, two charges relating to attempting to import a Class A and Class B drug and three firearms charges relating to unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.
• A 36-year-old male faces one charge of money laundering.
• A 33-year-old female faces one charge of money laundering.
Inquiries are still ongoing and police have not ruled out further arrests.
Detective Senior Sergeant Wayne Gray, of the Financial Crime Group, said the arrests should serve as a warning to those who may be involved in these kinds of money laundering operations that police will hold them to account.
"Today we have seized around $9 million worth of assets out of the hands of those allegedly engaging in criminal activity," Gray said.
"Police are well aware there are individuals and organisations that are enabling this kind of activity and are more than willing to profit off of the proceeds of crime. Let this be a warning that they are likely to come to police attention.
All the group had lived in New Zealand for a number of years, and some had citizenship, Gray told NZME. Several of the accused were related.
The 65-year-old woman faced a charge under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act due to the manner of transactions that had allegedly taken place, he said.
That charge was related to structuring transactions so they would stay below a certain threshold, in a way that was "obviously trying to evade law enforcement".
In a statement he said money being laundered in this case was alleged to have come from various sources, including drug dealing.
The arrests were related to an organised crime group police had been watching since the start of the year, Gray said.
The police operation had focused on third-party money launderers who were assisting other organised criminal groups to "move their money around and give it that air of legitimacy".
"Most crime types are out there to make money so money laundering just sits hand in hand with that, which is why our focus in this investigation was on the money," he said.
The investigation was ongoing and it was possible more assets could be seized.
He said police would target those who use third parties to assist in disguising funds and assets from law enforcement.
"Police will continue to use the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act to remove the proceeds of crime from these groups as part of our target to seize $500 million in cash and assets by 2021."
- NZ Herald