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$5m laundered through casinos: NSW police

High-profile Australian music promoter Andrew McManus was allegedly part of a criminal network that laundered up to $5 million through Sydney and Las Vegas casinos.

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McManus, 54, was one of five men arrested overnight in a joint operation between NSW detectives and the United States FBI.

Investigations began back in 2011 when $702,000 in cash was found in a Sydney hotel room.

The group allegedly gave the proceeds of their cocaine importation to a professional gambler working out of Sydney’s Star Casino, who took the cheques and cashed them in Las Vegas casinos, NSW Police said on Friday.

Detective Superintendent Scott Cook told reporters in Sydney that “approximately $5 million had been laundered so far”.

The majority of the money is believed to have been pushed through Star Casino but police said there is “no suggestion the casino was complicit in any way in regards to what the professional gambler was doing”.

McManus, whose One World Entertainment is behind upcoming Australian tours including KIIS and Def Leppard, was arrested at Melbourne airport on Thursday evening.

He has been charged with perverting the course of justice, two counts of intention to defraud by false or misleading statement and knowingly participating in a criminal group.

He is due to face a Sydney court on October 14.

Three other men were arrested in Sydney earlier that day, including 55-year-old crime figure Craig Haeusler, Kings Cross solicitor Michael Croke, 65, and 32-year-old Auburn pastry shop owner Zeki Atilgan.

The fifth man, Owen Hanson Jr, 33, was reportedly playing golf in San Diego when the FBI swooped on him.

Hanson Jr will appear before a judge in the US District Court in San Diego on Friday to apply for bail.

NSW Police will seek to extradite Hanson Jr to Sydney on arrest warrants for money laundering, perverting the course of justice and intent to defraud by false or misleading statement, as well as an additional charge of supplying a large commercial quantity of drugs.

After the seizure of the $702,000 cash in the hotel room in 2011, a court case was brought against NSW Police for the return of the cash when it was claimed the money was payment for an international band that had toured Australia.

But the police won and in late 2014 conducted raids in Sydney and Victoria, which netted $68,000 cash, drugs, steroids, documents and electronic equipment.

The operation also uncovered information regarding the alleged proposed importation of 300kg of cocaine from Mexico to Australia via the US.

Since then, police have been investigating alleged drug trafficking and associated money laundering.

Det Supt Cook said it shows how following the money trail may be challenging, but it’s effective.

“Organised crime is solely focused on profit. That’s why we follow the money, because we attack their profits,” he said.

The three men arrested in Sydney have been bailed to appear at Sydney courts next month.

Police say more arrests and charges could be made.

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