Thursday, January 26, 2017

Vietnamese International money laundering ring

Vietnamese hotelier Thi Lan Phuong Pham a 'major player' in alleged international
Police search the Vy Vy Garden Cafe in Canley Heights on January 19 as part of an investigation into a international money laundering syndicate. Photo: NSW Police Media

Ava Benny-Morrison

A Vietnamese hotelier allegedly ran a lucrative money laundering ring that washed millions of dollars for some of NSW's biggest organised crime targets.

Thi Lan Phuong Pham cried in the dock of Waverley Local Court on Friday while her role as a "major player" in an alleged criminal syndicate was detailed following her arrest.

The 40-year-old single mother was at the centre of a lengthy Organised Crime Squad and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission investigation for more than 12 months.

She was arrested at Sydney Airport on Thursday attempting to board a flight to Vietnam, where she and her family own or have interests in multiple luxury hotels, including at the popular Halong Bay and in Ho Chi Min City.

The south-west Sydney cafe Vy Vy Garden Cafe in Canley Heights, where Ms Pham has visited while in Australia, was raided on Thursday not long after her arrest. A Bossley Park home was also raided.

Phones, SIM cards and documents seized will be analysed by forensic accountants.
The Vy Vy Garden Cafe in Canley Heights was raided after Thi Lan Phuong Pham, 40, was arrested hours earlier at Sydney airport. Photo: NSW Police Media

It is understood one of Ms Pham's relatives, who supported her in court on Friday, is involved in the management of the cafe.

Police will allege Ms Pham, who was charged with directing activities of criminal group, came to Australia on a one year visa in 2016 before travelling back and forth between Sydney and Vietnam.

Ms Pham is accused of instructing people on how to launder money and was at the helm of an alleged syndicate that had clientele ranging from notorious bikies to Asian crime figures.

The court heard on Friday that Ms Pham recruited people to launder money and "discussed and directed" her co-accused on how to acquire, deposit and exchange the funds.

"It is not simply she is a minor player but she is in fact a major player," Magistrate Jennifer Giles said of the allegations against Ms Pham.

It will be alleged Ms Pham helped launder millions of dollars over recent years and was co-ordinating the alleged syndicate's activities from Vietnam.

Ms Giles said the case against Ms Pham involved telephone intercepts between herself and other players, including her co-accused, Van Kien Do.

"These telephone intercepts reveal her approving or not Do's methods of exchange of funds and of her approving suggestions made by Do as to how the funds could be exchanged," she said during Ms Pham's bail application.

Do was arrested on Wednesday, a day before Ms Pham tried to catch a flight back to Vietnam.

Ms Pham's barrister Frank Santisi told the court his client didn't understand the allegations and had been on her way back to Vietnam to see her children, not "take flight".

"She doesn't understand them or what they are about," he said.

Ms Pham, dressed in a sharp blue jacket and seated between two police officers in the dock, also denied knowing Do, including after she was shown a photo of herself and Do at the same function recently.

Mr Santisi said Ms Pham appeared to come from a family with substantial wealth and it sounded highly improbable she would engage in these activities.

Despite offering a surety and undertaking to report to police daily, the magistrate found Ms Pham was a risk of failing to reappear in court and of committing a serious offence.

She was refused bail and the case was adjourned to February 6.

Organised Crime Squad Detective Inspector Stuart Sweeney said the investigation highlighted the transnational nature of organised syndicates impacting NSW.

"While borders can present some investigative challenges, the ever increasing collaboration of law enforcement across the globe is showing that being outside the jurisdiction will not save you," he said.

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