The godmother, $315,000 and a Sydney apartment: inside a money laundering ring
As she walked through the streets of Sydney's north shore in Australia, she appeared a humble and unassuming woman on the way to the convenience store she ran.
But inside her Yeo Street apartment in the upmarket suburb of Neutral Bay, and in front of the organised crime figures she did business for, Ping He assumed the role of the "godmother".
This petite 52-year-old mother was at the helm of a lucrative money laundering ring, washing hundreds of thousands of dollars of drug proceeds offshore.
Her arrest was a major scalp in a lengthy NSW Organised Crime Squad investigation that shone a light on the scale of the illicit money laundering industry in Australia.
The intricacies of this investigation can now be detailed after He pleaded guilty last month to one outstanding charge.
Detectives put He – also known as "Angel" – under surveillance in 2014 after learning of her extensive links to Asian organised crime figures.
He, who owned Danny's Convenience Store in Neutral Bay, was part of a syndicate that laundered money from Australia to China and back again. Some of it would end up in the hands of Sydney-based Chinese nationals with gambling habits, court documents show.
The end game was to launder the proceeds of drug sales through numerous transactions with remitting agencies to mask the true source so it eventually appeared the money was from a legitimate source.
Sometimes He, who charged a 1-2 per cent commission, would organise someone to travel to Melbourne with bundles of cash to flush money through remitting agencies over the border.
The players in her syndicate referred to each other by titles like "Big head", "team leader" and "godmother".
In August, 2014, a surveillance device in He's unit recorded convicted drug supplier James Zhu, 48, and another man counting A$300,000 (NZ$315,000) on a cash counting machine.
"I'm going to take my commission first, f.... how much should it be?" asked Zhu, who referred to himself as "the master".
"$300,00, 2 per cent, $6000...do I take $6000?"
He replied: "Right, fine you take $6000, mine is $9000."
A few days later, He was heard telling a courier how to split A$250,000 into A$50,000 lots and deposit it into one bank account via multiple remitters.
In May 2014, He used a remitter to move client He Ren's drug sale proceeds from China to Australia. That money was directed to Chinese nationals in Australia who had deposited funds in He's Chinese bank account.
"This transaction ... showed the accused was using Ren's drug-related funds to facilitate money transfers to other people that required funds moved from China to Australia for their own purpose," a fact sheet tendered in court states.
He was also heard discussing drug prices with 52-year-old Ren, using terms like apples and oranges as code for ounces of methamphetamine.
Fearing Ren was on the police radar, Zhu urged He to stay away from him.
"Did you know how Ren made so much money," Zhu told He in 2014.
"In the past it was me giving Ren f....... opportunities all the way along."
Sweeping police raids resulted in the trio's arrest and a swathe of charges.
He – the leader of the syndicate – was sentenced last month to five years' jail, with a non-parole period of three years, for dealing with proceeds of crime.
She is due to be sentenced for participating in a criminal group charge in November.
- Sydney Morning Herald