Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Money Laundering

Money Laundering

Money laundering involves hiding, disguising or legitimising the true origin and ownership of money used in or derived from committing crimes. It is an extremely diverse activity that is carried out at all levels of sophistication and plays an important role in organised crime. 

There is no single method of laundering money. 

Money laundering methods

Money launderers often use the banking system and money transfer services. However they are imaginative and are constantly creating new schemes to circumvent the counter measures designed to detect them. 

Money laundering schemes may include moving money to create complex money trails, making it difficult to identify the original source and breaking up large amounts of cash and depositing the smaller sums in different bank accounts in an effort to place money in the financial system without arousing suspicion.

Prosecuting money laundering offences

Money laundering prosecutions are complex as they involve complicated factual circumstances and often dealings carried out overseas. This means we need overseas cooperation and evidence to assist our investigation and prosecution. 

Prosecuting these offences often requires detailed financial analysis and evidence. 

We are continuing to deal with an increasing number of prosecutions of money laundering matters as law enforcement agencies ‘follow the money’ in the investigation of serious and organised criminal activity.

Key legislation

Main offences

Money laundering offences are defined in Part 10.2 of the Criminal Code and encompass a wide range of criminal activity. 

  • ss.400.3–400.8 Criminal Code—dealing in proceeds of crime—money or property worth any value up to $1,000,000 or more
  • s.400.9 Criminal Code—dealing with property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime

Sections 400.3 to 400.8 of the Criminal Code are all similarly drafted and each relates to dealing with money or property that are proceeds of crime or could become an instrument of crime. However, each section relates to money or property of a different amount.

Sections 400.3 to 400.8 contain three different offences, each with a different maximum penalties, classified according to the state of mind (fault element) of the defendant. 

  • Whether the offence is classified as being contrary to subsection (1), (2) or (3) depends on the classification of the fault element (intention, recklessness or negligence) associated with the circumstances that the money or other property was proceeds of crime or was a potential instrument of crime.

Offences contained in the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 are also often used in prosecuting money laundering, in particular the following sections:

  • ss.142–143—structuring offences
  • ss.53, 55—the movement of physical currency both in and out of Australia
  • ss.136–138—opening of bank accounts using false customer identification documents;
  • ss.139–141—use of bank accounts in false names or failing to disclose the use of 2 or more names.


Value of money/ property $1million or more$100,000 or more$50,000 or more$10,000 or more$1000 or moreAny value
PenaltySs (1) Intention25 years20 years15 years10 years5 years12 mths
Ss (2) Reckless12 years10 years7 years5 years2 years6 mths
Ss(3) Negligent5 years4 years3 years2 years12 mths

10 p/units

The maximum penalty for dealing with property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime is 3 years’ imprisonment if the property is valued at $100,000 or more, or 2 years’ imprisonment if the property is valued at less than $100,000.

Partner agencies

Useful links