Cuckoo Smurfing and Emu Bobbing – Crimes you can’t say with a straight face

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Bill DoogueThe article Cuckoo Smurfing and Emu Bobbing – Crimes you can’t say with a straight face is written by Bill Doogue, Director, Accredited Criminal Law Specialist, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers.

Bill is a partner at and directs the operations of Doogue + George. He has been an accredited criminal law specialist ever since 1998 and has over 29 years of experience in criminal defence.

Over the years, Bill's legal expertise has allowed the firm to represent numerous clients - including high ranking church officials, state and federal politicians, as well as huge corporations which sometimes involve foreign jurisdictions. His excellence in the field earned him a Law Institute of Victoria Service Award in 2013 and the title of Preeminent Criminal Defence Lawyer in the Doyle’s Guide 2020.


EmuWhile money laundering is not the sexiest or most interesting crime you could write about, it has produced some of the best names for crimes I’ve ever heard.

Just yesterday, I was discussing with a colleague a former client who was charged with Cuckoo Smurfing.

The origin of the term is fairly obvious. Just as cuckoo birds put their eggs in the nests of other species of birds so cuckoo smurfers put their money into other unwitting people’s accounts. Yes, they do.

You may wonder how that works as money laundering. Good question;

  • A genuine punter proceeds to transfer money to an Australian account from a money remitter in a foreign country. So far, common and lawful activity.
  • The money remitter provides details of the account to a cuckoo smurfer in Australia. Not so lawful.
  • The smurfer then deposits cash into the Australian account at the time it is due to arrive from the overseas country.
  • The recipient has received the money in their account so doesn’t consider the transaction once the correct money has been transferred.
  • The smurfer/launderer then has clean money waiting for him or her at the remitters in a foreign country.

And that smooth process is how someone might earn themselves the slightly inelegant identity of a Cuckoo Smurfer.

An Emu Bobber uses a less sophisticated process, but is likewise, a cracker of a handle.

This is a different money laundering technique where the launderer employs someone to collect losing betting slips off the ground at the gee-gees (horse races). Obviously, the bobbing refers to the up and down motion they become so adept at.

The slips are used to prove that the launderer has lost all their money from a criminal venture at the races. This practice is often used when investigators are trying to follow the proceeds of crime and particularly in coercive hearings where someone might be questioned about where they have hidden their monies.

The emu bobber provides a level of deniability because the launderer admits to having some money but it was not hidden, it was just lost on those damn gee-gees!

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