Crime syndicate probe extended to Neerabup
AFP, Customs and Police at a market garden in Neerabup. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Police linked to the Project Tricord inquiry are at two properties in Neerabup today.

Authorities would not reveal why they were searching those two properties but confirmed the raids were linked to the investigation into an alleged multi-million dollar crime syndicate that managed an illegal foreign workforce.

Police will allege two brothers ran a criminal empire that managed an illegal foreign workforce and laundered tens of millions of dollars through its business interests in primary produce, construction and the entertainment industry.

Two of the three brothers, prominent Carabooda market gardeners Michael and Canh Le, have been charged with harbouring unlawful foreigners and dealing in the proceeds of crime after an investigation sparked in 2010 over allegations of drug dealing, suspicious financial transactions and other illegal activities.

Authorities yesterday revealed more details of the alleged crime syndicate after a series of raids that netted 3kg of methylamphetamines, 2kg of heroin, more than $500,000 cash and 21 firearms - including illegal handguns, assault rifles and modified firearms, some allegedly linked to burglaries in Perth.

WA Police Assistant Commissioner State Crime Craig Ward said police would allege the brothers were the "heads" of a syndicate that had "tentacles" in other States and overseas.

Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Ramzi Jabbour claimed the alleged syndicate developed a sophisticated money laundering scheme involving multiple companies, enabling underpayment to foreign workers while retaining commissions and allegedly avoiding taxation payments.

The illegal workforce was allegedly created by recruiting and harbouring foreigners who had entered Australia lawfully but had overstayed their visas.

Authorities have questioned 240 suspected illegal workers after raids on dozens of Perth properties, including a Carabooda compound owned by the Le brothers' company TLF Exports.

About 130 have already been identified as "unlawful non-citizens" and they remain in Department of Immigration custody awaiting likely deportation.

Mr Ward described the situation as a "human tragedy", saying in a raid in Wanneroo, authorities found 30 people living in a house with one toilet.

"These are people who are put through conditions we wouldn't accept. You can't think of them as another commodity," he said.

It is alleged that some of the workers' accommodation in the Carabooda compound was so filthy that at least one woman needed medical treatment during Saturday's raids.

Michael Le. Supplied picture

Police Minister Liza Harvey said it was particularly shocking that many people made an effort to buy WA produce because they thought the State had standards about the way it was produced and the employment practices that underpinned that.

One local resident told 6PR the Carabooda market gardening operations had been a source of tension for years, with a resident's van firebombed after complaints were made about suspected illegal workers at the property.

"You have to be careful with what you're dealing with because there can be repercussions," he said.

He said on occasions, workers had approached him on the street and asked for help. "They say they've overstayed and what's the best thing they can do," he said.

"They say they're underpaid."

Authorities have charged eight other WA men accused of being involved in the alleged crime syndicate with dealing in proceeds of crime and harbouring charges.

Richard Grant, the Australian Crime Commission's national manager of investigations, said using illegal workers and not paying taxes created a loss of income for the government, gave the companies using them an unfair advantage and placed a strain on legitimate businesses.

The West Australian

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