Why this shop shifted $95m
IN a quiet Parramatta street, hidden off the main drag, the small grocery store Little Persia was doing a roaring trade. But it was not bread, milk or traditional Middle Eastern delicacies that made the family-run business so profitable.
It was $34 million of drug money that came into their bank account over a three-month period and was sent overseas.
But authorities would learn this was only the start of the exponential growth. According to Austrac, a government agency that tracks money transactions, Little Persia's bank account grew to $95 million over 10 months. Of that, $55 million was sent overseas and the rest laundered and distributed through the community in a diverse portfolio of legitimate investments.
Two men linked to Little Persia - one of them the co-owner, Iranian-born Amir Rafizadeh - were jailed in August for their part in the money laundering operation following an investigation led by the Australian Federal Police.
On one occasion, police discovered the shop had sent $4 million to Iran. Bags of cash were collected in car parks across Sydney then transferred to the ''Gold Corporation'' in Tehran and other destinations through the Commonwealth Bank.
As part of their efforts to smash money laundering and terrorist financing, the AFP and the Australian Crime Commission, along with Austrac, busted the Little Persia racket in October 2009. The Sun-Herald has learned the case was one of the country's biggest scams, cleaning millions of dollars for crime syndicates. Investigations continue into a raft of organised crime groups that used the service.
Iranians living in Sydney and some local businesses continue to use Little Persia to send money legally to overseas remittance services. But what happens once it leaves Australia is difficult to track. There is concern that some transactions are sent to third countries for organised crime networks.
Western Union and MoneyGram are major names in the remittance provider service in Australia and popular with diasporas across the globe as an easy way to transfer money. But authorities are sharpening their focus on hundreds of backroom remittance systems, operated out of shops such as Little Persia, that might be vulnerable to abuse by criminal networks.
Austrac's suspicions were piqued when there was a sudden increase in financial traffic at Little Persia and when a significant proportion of the transactions shifted from Iran to the United Arab Emirates.
Court documents show co-owner Rafizadeh conducted the illegal activity with Bangladeshi-born Abdul Hameed, who ran Freshco Foods, a grocery wholesalers in Clyde. On five occasions between June and October 2009, Rafizadeh approached Hameed in his car opposite a Commonwealth Bank in Parramatta and collected a black sports bag containing between $500,000 and $1 million in cash. Rafizadeh then visited the bank to deposit the money into a business account.
The AFP observed a total of $3,560,110 in cash passing between Hameed and Rafizadeh over a five-day period. On October 2, 2009, the AFP raided Hameed's Baulkham Hills home and discovered $562,430 in cash in his house.
Hameed later admitted to police he received $60,000 in commission for providing cash to Rafizadeh. Hameed claimed a man named ''John'' had approached him to help transfer money to Iran and regular money deliveries were made, including at a Bunnings car park.
In August, Judge David Freeman in the NSW District Court sent both Hameed and Rafizadeh to jail until April next year. After the men pleaded guilty to the charges, they returned to work at the store while on bail. Rafizadeh's wife Mojgan Zojagi, who also owns a stake in Little Persia, continues to operate a remittance business from the store. Austrac say she has done nothing wrong.
''We are all above board, there was some trouble in the past but now all OK," Mrs Zojagi said when The Sun-Herald visited her store.
The chief executive of Austrac, John Schmidt, said the Little Persia case was the best example of Australian efforts to smash the new trend in which sophisticated international money laundering syndicates use small remittance providers to transfer money and avoid detection.
and we wonder why these folks who come here , but dont assimilate , remake their third world scum hole society again here ( what they where supposing to escape) get public housing , very few work , but they have such nice car's , have oversea's holidays often , and get welfare !!!
Multiculturalism , where if i say anything bout things like this , i'm a dirty racist .. and i must be more understanding of their needs ..