Dirty money laundered at casinos by welfare recipients

Hundreds of Queensland welfare recipients have bet millions of dollars in state casinos under a money laundering scam linked to crime gangs.

The 329 pensioners and Newstart Allowance recipients, who get less than AUD 300 a week, have bought AUD 45 million of gaming chips at the state’s four casinos in just 16 months.

The scam is simple. Pension recipients, working independently or on behalf of organised crime syndicates, take thousands of dollars in dirty money, „buy-in“ at a casino, place a few bets and then cash in gaming chips; in effect cleaning the cash.

The average buy-in of chips was AUD 162,660 from May 2006 to November 2007 and was mostly done at the Conrad Treasury Casino in Brisbane and Conrad Jupiters at the Gold Coast.

The information, including data from other state casinos, has been shared with eight Commonwealth agencies under the Financial Intelligence Assessment Team, led by the Australian Crime Commission.

The Australian Federal Police are now facing criticism from some Government agencies that it has not acted quickly enough to move against the money launderers.

The AFP did not comment on the criticisms but said it could not provide information on current investigations, but took money laundering seriously.

Asked what action Queensland police was taking, in a statement the service said: „Queensland police have not been supplied with a list of names from either Centrelink or the casinos in relation to the 329 Queenslanders identified as high rollers.“

ACC chief executive officer Alastair Milroy said the agency was examining ways criminals exploited legitimate businesses, including casinos, in order to launder their illicit profits.

Human Services Minister Joe Ludwig said the Queenslanders identified had been asked to explain their behaviour.

„If there has been a failure to declare income assets for the sake of Centrelink benefits, then compliance action has followed,“ Senator Ludwig said.

„Where Centrelink officials form the view that there is a prima facie case of criminal action (for fraud) this matter is referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

„The volumes of money involved are very large (and) there is a need for continued vigilance in monitoring money laundering through gambling venues.“

How it works

Names of high rollers are cross-checked with Centrelink data.

Casinos advise Centrelink of buy-ins – the amount of cash tendered by a player to buy gaming chips – and a formula calculates ongoing losses.

Gamblers with buy-ins greater than AUD 50,000 are investigated.

Unexplained wealth is applied to losses rather than winnings.

To determine ongoing losses, events such as winnings are taken into account and used to offset future losses.