Police seize Melbourne property in international corruption case
Federal Police seized properties and money worth $ 1.6 million in an alleged scheme to use Melbourne’s real estate market to funnel millions of dollars in funds from a Malaysian government entity to corrupt officials.
The foreclosed properties and funds in bank accounts belonged to Australian property developer Dennis Teen, his wife and their private companies. Mr Teen was indicted in July on charges of paying $ 4.75 million in bribes to Malaysian government officials to facilitate the Malaysian government’s purchase of a real estate project in Melbourne .
The seizure of properties linked to Mr Teen on August 18 marks one of the many rare but important victories of federal agents in the battle against Australian companies that bribe foreign officials or use offshore tax havens to engage in serious crimes international financial institutions. Among the cases was the guilty plea obtained by AFP from a Sydney businessman who bribed officials on the island of Nauru to secure mining concessions.
The case against Mr Teen concerns Australia’s end of a supposedly sophisticated corruption scheme involving offshore accounts and numerous foreign officials who have yet to be brought to justice. Age and The Sydney Morning Herald obtained a draft report leaked by Ernst and Young auditors prepared for the Malaysian government which alleges that several officials and former officials – including a powerful Malaysian politician – may have obtained bribes worth up to ‘to $ 23.5 million by laundering money through a number of Australian real estate developments including a student housing block called Dudley House in Caulfield.
Dennis Teen’s indictment and the seizure of his property was sparked by a 2015 newspaper investigation that first revealed the alleged bribe payments channeled through various Australian properties. The alleged victims were poor rural Malays, who were believed to benefit from taxpayer funds held by the Malaysian government agency involved in the alleged corruption program. But a number of small Victorian businesses that helped build one of the properties involved in the bribery scheme were also scammed after money owed to them for the work they had done was siphoned off from offshore bank accounts.
In a statement, federal police confirmed that their criminal asset confiscation team seized property related to Mr. Teen’s alleged criminal offense.
“It is alleged that $ 4.75 million was paid to entities in Malaysia which were either related to one or more Malaysian public officials, or to agents acting on their behalf, in return for arrangements made by the agents to ensure that the Malaysian government-owned entity is buying the property, “police said.” Bank accounts held by the accused’s wife and the accused’s associated companies have also been frozen. “
Stefan Jerga, AFP’s acting national director of criminal asset confiscation, said the seizures were part of AFP’s nation-wide efforts to seize assets linked to suspected criminals. “Over the past fiscal year, CACT has frozen criminal assets in excess of $ 250 million, a tremendous result,” Jerga said.