Australia dismantles crime syndicate that moved nearly $1B in crypto

Australian police have arrested 28 people in a coordinated crackdown against one of Australia’s largest crime syndicates, which has allegedly moved AU$1.5 billion ($978 million) in cryptocurrency over the past year.

The gang, which reportedly originates from Lebanon, has allegedly also moved AU$1 billion ($652 million) in drugs, firearms, and tobacco.

New South Wales (NSW) police investigating the syndicate began arresting suspects on Sunday. Over the course of two days, 450 officers carried out 37 search warrants and made 24 arrests. 

Police have so far seized 25 firearms, AU$2 million ($1.3 million) in cryptocurrency, almost AU$1.5 million ($980,000) in cash, more than AU$3 million ($1.9 million) worth of luxury watches, a Lamborghini, and 60 dedicated encrypted criminal communications devices (DECCD). Police also seized two tonnes of illicit drugs and precursor drugs worth over AU$130 million ($85 million).

The syndicate’s demise was announced during a press event on Wednesday. Detective Superintendent Peter Faux alleged that the syndicate had moved over AU$1.5 billion in cryptocurrency during its operation.

Read more: Prison plot to move $54M ether to Bahamas ends in seizure

“The organised crime network of this level will go to every length they can to make themselves as powerful as they can and reap the rewards of the crime they commit,” he said. 

Police Deputy Commissioner David Hudson said, “We will allege this international network had tentacles far-reaching into all levels of organized crime here in NSW and is believed to have controlled the illicit drug trade through methods such as price determining and fixing.” 

The most wanted individual in this investigation is reportedly Bilal Haouchar, who was arrested by Lebanese authorities this week. According to The Sydney Herold, his brother, Nedal Haouchar, was arrested at Sydney airport in the first detention of this week’s operation. The investigation is still ongoing.

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