UK News 24 – A.B.C. – P.N.A
- Three Estonian nationals arrested in WA over bank scam
- Believed to be up to 100 victims across Australia and at least $3.5 million lost.
- People from Estonia, eastern European nations recruited to open bank accounts in Australia.
PERTH ( AUSTRALIA ) – Police believe up there are up to 100 victims across the nation, with at least $3,500,000 lost.
The syndicate has allegedly recruited people from Estonia and other eastern European nations to open bank accounts in Australia to receive the funds.
The Fraud Squad says the three men in Western Australia were recruited via social media, one overseas and the other two locally.
Detective Sergeant Andie Fagan of the Major Fraud Squad has warned members of the Estonian community to be aware.
“We’re actually preferring Commonwealth charges related to money laundering, dealing with the proceeds of crime,” he said.
“There is an imprisonment term of up to 20 years. That’s why we’re actually appealing to the Estonian community.
“These people, once they’re recruited, they’re recruited with the promise of easy money.
“They’re young, they’re naive, they don’t understand the charges that they’re facing.”
Detective Sergeant Fagan said that once someone had become part of the syndicate, it was hard to get out of it.
“Once they’ve been drawn into the syndicate some of them have realised what they’re doing is wrong, there’ve been threats of intimidation to them and there’s been allegations of threats to their families in Estonia as well,” he said.
An Estonian national, aged 23, was arrested on February 23 and is facing 10 charges over allegations he received more than $195,000 into six accounts he held.
A 20-year-old Estonian national arrested on December 26 is facing two charges, and an 18-year-old Estonian arrested in October is facing 15 counts.
Bank accounts, superannuation accounts and even personal accounts have been compromised by the syndicate.
Police targeted large bank transfers.
Detective Sergeant Fagan said bank transfers involving large amounts have been targeted.
“Once they agree to partake in the syndicate’s operation they are encouraged to open bank accounts with numerous banks within Australia,” he said.
“They are then instructed that funds will be going into those accounts and they are to withdraw the funds as soon as possible.
“Once the funds are withdrawn, there’s several means they’re distributed, be that through money remitters, through money laundering, changing into financial currency and then being distributed through other syndicate members throughout Australia.”
The syndicate member is advised via a phone app that they have to withdraw the funds and told how to distribute it.
The main operators are believed to be in Australia and overseas.
The form of computer technology used to compromise the accounts and transfers was being investigated by the AFP.
Detective Sergeant Fagan said the multi-agency operation also involved Border Force and the Department of Immigration.
There had been arrests in other states, and it was known that Germans, Lithuanians and Latvians had been approached.
The Fraud Squad started Operation Swindle in October 2015, but this type of crime has been happening in Europe for about a decade.
Detective Sergeant Fagan has predicted a fraud epidemic in Australia in five years.