Cocaine syndicate accused of laundering money through casinos

TAGs: Las Vegas casinos, money laundering, Sydney

Cocaine syndicate accused of laundering money through casinosAustralian promoter Andrew McManus, along with four others, were allegedly to be part of a criminal network that laundered up to $5m cocaine proceeds through Sydney and Las Vegas casinos.

In a joint sting of FBI and New South Wales (NSW) Police, McManus was arrested in Melbourne Airport on Thursday, following the arrest of drug kingpin Craig Haeusler, Kings Cross solicitor Michael Croke , Auburn pastry shop owner Zeki Atilgan and US businessman Owen Hanson Jr.

McManus, whose resume includes tours by Whitney Houston, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, Kiss and Mötley Crüe, has been under the microscope since police confiscated a black suitcase filled with AUD700,000 ($493,000) from former cage-fighter Sean Carolan at a Sydney’s Hilton hotel in 2011.

Carolan told the police he didn’t know what was in the bag and was just minding it for Hanson, who had been gambling at the casino and didn’t want to lose any more money. McManus later claimed the cash was to repay Hanson, who he claimed had paid the money as a deposit for a tour of Australia by the American band ZZ Top.

Head of the NSW Organized Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook, allege Friday that the cash found was proceeds from a cocaine deal. The funds were supposed to go to The Star casino where a professional gambler would launder it and to cash it in Las Vegas casinos, although there is no indication that the casinos had any knowledge of the gambler’s illegal activities.

Cook also said the bust proved how successful “following the money” could be.

“We’re really committed to that now — it provides very good results. It is challenging, it’s very difficult. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. Added Cook. “So we face many challenges jurisdictionally but we’re overcoming those challenges, particularly in regards to partnerships with the FBI, with the Australian Crime Commission, NSW Crime Commission, all the state police forces and the [Australian] Federal Police.”

In 2014, NSW police conducted raids in Sydney and Victoria, which targeted two McManus’ properties—a business premises in Richmond and his home on the Mornington Peninsula—and netted $68,000 cash, drugs, steroids, documents and electronic equipment.

The operation also uncovered information regarding the alleged proposed importation of 300kg of cocaine from Mexico to Australia via the US, which never went through.

MacManus’ lawyer Nick Hanna, said in a statement, that his client “will strenuously defend the charges that have been brought against him.”

“Contrary to some media reports, the police have not alleged that Mr. McManus has been involved in any drug syndicate, drug importation or money laundering.”


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