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Aussie laundered stolen retirement funds via Hong Kong using crypto, diamonds

A woman in Melbourne, Australia pleaded guilty on Wednesday to her role in stealing millions of dollars from superannuation (retirement) funds and stock portfolios before laundering the proceeds via Hong Kong through the purchase of cryptocurrency and diamonds, as reported by The Age newspaper.

See related article: Australian superannuation and institutions await clarity to invest in crypto

Fast facts

  • When Jasmine Vella-Arpaci was 21, she used identity theft and phishing scams to steal more than AU$3 million (US$1.96 million) from 26 customers of super funds including HESTA, Hostplus and Rest Super, and of various share trading platforms.

  • The stolen funds were then transferred to a series of fraudulently obtained Westpac — one of Australia’s biggest four banks — debit cards which were then mailed to a member of the syndicate in Hong Kong who purchased diamonds and jewelry to launder the funds.

  • Vella-Arpaci, now 24, was then paid her share of the profits, worth AU$147,000, in Bitcoin.

  • Australia’s superannuation scheme was ranked as the fifth-largest in the world in 2021 with a valuation of US$3.2 trillion, and as such, there is great interest surrounding whether the industry might begin investing in the crypto market.

  • Amid the police investigation, Vella-Arpaci was found to have 1,400 documents such as passports, driver’s licenses, bank and Medicare (Australia’s government-supported healthcare system) cards.

  • Vella-Arpaci pled guilty to two charges of conspiracy to defraud and one of conspiracy to deal with the proceeds of crime. She remains on bail until the hearing resumes on Nov. 30.

See related article: Aussie watchdog obtains cold wallet holding US$20M in Bitcoin involved with alleged scam