An Australian investigation into money-laundering and drug trafficking has uncovered a powerful triad syndicate with top Asian politicians and police involved, according to a report.
The four-year intelligence inquiry by the Australian Crime Commission describes a multi-billion-dollar international drug and money-laundering network that poses "a significant threat to the Australian community".
The Sydney Morning Herald said a briefing outlining the findings of Operation Dayu put senior Asian officials in the frame and exposed a triad-led global criminal entity known as the "grandfather syndicate".
It said intelligence was uncovered that the syndicate had infiltrated a high level of government "in both law enforcement agencies and political circles" in Asia, including China, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Macau.
"There are a number of other countries where this is suspected but not apparent to date," the briefing, which has been supplied to overseas agencies, reportedly said.
One example involved a "high-placed triad associate" of the grandfather syndicate "attending an Interpol conference in New York".
As part of its probe, the commission, an Australian government criminal intelligence and investigation agency, was authorised to send more than Aus$10 million (US$10.4 million) in suspected drug funds offshore in an attempt to identify crime bosses.
Run in partnership with the Australian federal police and Australia's anti-money-laundering agency Austrac, it seized drugs worth an estimated $780 million.
The Australian Crime Commission could not be reached Saturday for comment but the Herald said the briefing showed the syndicate was responsible for at least Aus$1.2 billion worth of drug imports to Australia annually.
"The pooling of resources of the main triad groups has allowed them to merge their contacts, assets and holdings, creating a well-established network of contacts across many governments as well as legitimate business and company structures," the briefing said.
The syndicate reportedly has "three main heads based in Southeast Asia and at least 22 other primary seats (bosses)" around the globe.
It pours billions of dollars into "high-profile Internet gambling facilities, Asian hotel chains and resorts, commercial construction companies, property companies in Hong Kong and Vietnam (and) casinos".
To move money, the syndicate uses "highly-placed government officials, banking staff ... (to) undercut any other overt or covert money transfer facility", the Herald cited the briefing as saying.