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 various 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 often involve complicated factual circumstances and dealings carried out in foreign jurisdictions. This means may mean we need overseas cooperation and evidence to assist in our investigation and prosecution of the matter. 

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 set out in Part 10.2 of the Criminal Code and encompass a wide range of criminal activity.

  • Sections 400.3 to 400.8 of Criminal Code: Dealing with money or property that is the proceeds of crime or intended to become an instrument of crime;
  • Section of the 400.9 Criminal Code: Dealing with property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime.

Section 400.3 to 400.8 of the Criminal Code make it an offence to deal with money or property that is the proceeds of crime, or intended to become an instrument of crime. The offences in section 400.3 to 400.8 are all similar, however each section relates to money or property of a different value. For example, the offences in section 400.3 apply where the money or property dealt with was worth $1 million dollars or more.

  • Sections 400.3 to 400.8 each contain three different offences with a maximum penalty that is tied to the state of mind (fault element) of the defendant when dealing with the money or property. Whether the offence is classified as being contrary to subsection (1), (2) or (3) depends on the state of mind the defendant had (belief/intention, recklessness or negligence) about the nature of the money or property. A table setting out the maximum penalties for each of the offences in Sections 400.3 to 400.8 is below.

Section 400.9 of the Criminal Code contains a different type of money laundering offence. This offence applies to dealings with money or property which is reasonably suspected to be the proceeds of crime and does not require proof that the defendant has a particular state of mind about the nature of the money or property.

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:

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


Sections 400.3 to 400.8 of the Criminal Code

Value of money/ property $1 million or more$100,000 or more$50,000 or more$10,000 or more$1000 or moreAny value
Penaltyss (1) Belief/Intention25 years20 years15 years10 years5 years12 months
ss (2) Recklessness12 years10 years7 years5 years2 years6 months
ss(3) Negligence5 years4 years3 years2 years12 months

10 p/units

Section 400.9 of the Criminal Code

The maximum penalty for an offence contrary to section 400.9 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.

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