In the sprawling web of financial deceit, two locations in the Philippines have recently been subjected to a rigorous crackdown, an operation meticulously executed in connection with a nefarious self-managed super fund (SMSF) scam. This insidious plot, cunningly designed to strip Australians of their life savings, operated under the deceptive facade of legitimacy.
A strategic alliance between the Philippines National Police and the Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) culminated in a surgical raid on a boiler room operation nestled in the heart of Manila this month. Masquerading as an Australian-regulated entity, the puppeteers orchestrating this callous charade deftly extracted critical information from unsuspecting victims, orchestrating the grand theft of their hard-earned retirement funds.
Regrettably, the landscape is rife with such SMSF scams, an escalating menace fueled by the allure of substantial sums and fortified by cutting-edge technology enabling the orchestration of sophisticated machinations. Globally, an increasing legion of scammers endeavors to seize hold of Australian pensions, exemplified by the disconcerting revelation from the ACCC that a staggering $701 million succumbed to the clutches of investment fraud in 2021 alone.
Enter the exposé of the ASAL scam, a saga unfolding since the inception of our investigation in 2020. A stream of intelligence directed our focus towards a criminal syndicate in Manila, meticulously honing in on Australian SMSFs. The machinations of these malevolent minds led our IFW operatives in the Philippines to undertake expert surveillance and covert intelligence gathering, revealing a disturbing masquerade.
Cloaked in the deceptive identity of the Australian Securities Administration Limited (ASAL), a legitimate and licensed entity, the perpetrators concealed their malevolence behind the veneer of respectability. In reality, the purported ASAL was a mere doppelgänger—a clone crafted with precision to coax victims into revealing intricate details about their superannuation accounts. Armed with irrefutable evidence, IFW took decisive action, lodging a formal criminal complaint with the Philippines National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG).
The crescendo of our efforts materialized on September 9, 2022, as the PNP-ACG Cyber Response Unit, in tandem with IFW operatives, orchestrated two raids in Pasig—one targeting an office, the other a residential haven. The office raid resulted in the apprehension of 29 Filipino workers and the confiscation of a trove of electronic paraphernalia, all sanctioned by a Cyber Warrant issued by the Philippine Court.
Simultaneously, PNP-ACG operatives descended upon the residence of the alleged mastermind, 53-year-old British National Alan Dean Grove. Alongside his 29-year-old wife, Rosie Delos Reyes Grove, both were subjected to custodial scrutiny, amplifying the tally of detainees to a formidable 31. At present, no charges have been levied against them, leaving the saga in a state of legal limbo.
Post-raid, a prosecutor from the Department of Justice meticulously examined each detainee during a formal inquest. Nevertheless, the quagmire of legal technicalities, specifically the absence of perpetrators being “caught in the act,” thwarted immediate charges. The detainees, although released, remain under the looming shadow of potential violations—specifically, Section 4(b)(2) (Computer-related Fraud) and Section 5(a) (Aiding or Abetting in the Commission of Cybercrime) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
The denouement of this gripping narrative rests in the hands of ongoing investigations. The PNP-ACG’s forensic scrutiny of seized devices promises to be the linchpin in unraveling the truth, an indispensable component in the quest for justice.