In mid-2015, 11 Commonwealth Bank accounts were opened in 11 different names. Eleven different New South Wales drivers’ licences were used to open the accounts.
If anyone at the Commonwealth Bank had checked, they would have noticed the pictures on most of the licences featured the same overweight man.
That man was Kha Weng Foong. He was sentenced late last year as part of a money-laundering syndicate that funnelled about $4.5 million through the Commonwealth Bank to Hong Kong in five weeks in mid-2015.
The syndicate’s actions became part of a much bigger story today, with Australia’s financial watchdog, Austrac, launching a court case against the Commonwealth Bank for a vast failure to prevent money laundering through its cash deposit machines around Australia since 2012.
Austrac alleges the bank has contravened Australia’s money laundering legislation about 53,700 times since introducing its “intelligent deposit machines” in May 2012.
Austrac also accuses the Commonwealth Bank of failing to report suspicious transactions and ignoring repeated warnings from law enforcement it may be facilitating money laundering.
Austrac identified four syndicates that deposited a total of about $90 million with the bank between late 2014 and mid-2016.
The syndicate involving Foong, a Malaysian citizen, is one of those examples and highlights the massive money laundering alleged to have slipped past the Commonwealth Bank’s gaze.
A document tendered in Foong’s case described how he and two other men — Hong Kong man Yuen Hong Fung and another unidentified man — deposited millions of dollars in cash in Commonwealth Bank accounts between July 14 and August 24, 2015.
The three men deposited about $3.6 million across 427 separate transactions. They made dozens of deposited amounts under $10,000 at Commonwealth branches scattered across Sydney to avoid scrutiny.
The bank accounts were held in fake names such as Ronald Brown, Luke Shaw and Richard Whippy.
Once the money was deposited into the Commonwealth Bank accounts, Fung transferred $4.5 million to two Hong Kong accounts across 99 separate online transactions.
What the men didn’t know was the Australian Federal Police were watching. On the morning of August 24, 2015, after a month of surveillance, Foong and Fung were arrested.
Police found $40,000 on Foong and almost $200,000 in his car. They found 16 fake NSW drivers’ licence cards and a wealth of banking material.
At Fung’s home they found a black bag with $520,000 inside. When questioned, Fung told federal police a man named “Johnny” had given it to him two days before and asked him to hold onto it.
Both Foong and Fung have been sentenced for the money laundering.
The three men funnelled $4.5 million out of Australia, partly because of lax standards at the Commonwealth Bank.
And if Austrac’s allegations are to be believed, it was only the tip of the iceberg.
Comment has been sought from the Commonwealth Bank.
Photo: ABC News