Two tales of empire s origins

At first glance, the business empire built by the late Thang Van Le and his family is another chapter in WA's continuing migrant success story.

After moving to Australia from Vietnam in 1982 aged 33, Thang Van Le started with a small market garden near Geraldton before expanding into Perth's northern outskirts by buying Carabooda farms once tilled by southern European migrants.

And just like those who came before them, Mr Le, his wife Nga Thi Huynh and five children went from tilling the soil to owning multiple farms, investment properties and even an emerging construction business.

The patriarch stepped aside from his directorships of the family companies in 2007, fighting a losing battle against cancer.

He left his sons Michael, Canh and Dan in charge of burgeoning businesses that would continue to grow into an empire worth tens of millions of dollars.

That is the romantic version of the Thang Le Family, or TLF, business success story.

RACKETS EXPOSED | IDLE CROPS, PRICE RISES | EMPLOYERS ON NOTICE

A more sinister version is that the Le family empire is alleged to have been the beneficiary of systematic exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers.

Police, immigration and building commission officials have raided the Le business headquarters in Carabooda and other business with suspected links to labour rackets.

Michael and Cahn, who are on the agricultural side of the family empire, have been charged with harbouring unlawful foreigners and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Ramzi Jabbour said this week the syndicate was alleged to have developed a sophisticated money laundering syndicate involving multiple companies.

The police are understood to be examining links between the traditional market gardening operations in the Le family empire and other businesses to get an understanding of whether they can embark on seizure actions under proceeds of crime laws.

Investigations by The Weekend West have found a business empire that spreads from Carabooda, to properties around Perth, to an upmarket beauty salon in Perth, across to eastern Australia and back to Vietnam. The family's Wangara-based commercial building arm, TLF Construction, has set up a steel fabrication division operating out of Wangara and Ho Chi Minh City and working with a Thai steelworks.

The website for the Le family's Integrane steel group was taken down this week, but it had claimed to be able to produce fabricated steel to Australian standards at 30 per cent below Australian market pricing. TLF Construction's website was also taken down this week. Dan Le, the sole director of TLF Construction, has not been charged.

The West Australian

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