We build the picture of crime impacting Australia by: Collecting information; and Combining information; to discover new areas of national focus.
While our performance in discovering previously unknown targets in 2018–19 was in line with our results in 2017–18, our discovery of known targets operating in a new area of criminality increased significantly.
The measure of previously unknown criminality was introduced in 2017–18, and a significant increase in discovery is expected to occur as data capture becomes more systematic across the agency. For this reason, the results reported this year are likely to form a baseline going forward.
The ACIC has taken a decision to focus its efforts on high-priority serious and organised crime threats to Australia. The development of the APOT list is a key element of this work. In 2018–19, 12 targets were added to the APOT list, an increase in comparison to eight targets added in 2017–18.
Our special coercive powers are used to discover new insights into serious and organised crime in Australia. Numbers of examinations and intelligence products generated as a result of those examinations were similar to four-year trends.
Our stakeholder survey results were strong, with 81 per cent of those surveyed agreeing that the ACIC provides information and intelligence on changes in the crime environment.
By discovering and sharing intelligence on previously unknown threats, we are contributing to national understanding so that we and our partners can better respond to crime impacting Australia and make Australia safer.
Identifying new threats
During 2018–19, our gathering and analysis of intelligence led to substantial outcomes in discovering, preventing and disrupting previously unknown criminal threats to Australia. The following examples demonstrate some of our contributions.
In late 2018, ACIC intelligence indicated that a group of foreign nationals arriving in Australia were part of a foreign syndicate in the final stages of establishing a sophisticated fraud scheme. The ACIC and joint task force partners executed search warrants and located several EFTPOS terminals, merchant receipts, airline boarding passes, money transfer receipts, financial documents, electronic devices and mobile phones.
An inspection of the mobile phones located multiple conversations between syndicate members relating to fraud operations in Australia. As a result, further search warrants were executed at business premises leased by the syndicate and the foreign nationals were taken into custody and charged.
As part of an investigation into drug importation, the ACIC identified intelligence relating to a property development syndicate that was using a number of legislative and regulatory loopholes to evade tax liabilities. The group was involved in phoenix-type activity and was utilising complex corporate structures to avoid detection. The ACIC was able to demonstrate both the existence of a significant taxation liability and the recoverability of those funds, by analysing the pattern of activity.
The ACIC also developed and shared intelligence about the increasing use of daigou business (also known as ‘surrogate shopping’) to launder money and avoid financial regulations and restrictions. We discovered a technique that exploits daigou business that was not previously known and shared it with an international partner. The international partner indicated that the information we provided made a positive contribution to their ongoing investigations.
The ACIC exploited knowledge gained from coercive examinations to identify and advise partner agencies of an innovative illicit drug and drug precursor manufacturing process. This unique intelligence was tested by an ACIC specialist in a forensic laboratory, leading to the development of a more detailed and comprehensive intelligence product which has been shared across Australia and internationally. The chemical which underpins the manufacturing process has been proposed for scheduling in Commonwealth legislation to prevent its diversion to the illicit market.
During 2018–19, we participated in a multiagency task force, with domestic and international law enforcement partners, aimed at disrupting the ongoing use of the Pacific region as a strategic transit point for the trafficking of illicit drugs into Australia. As a key member of this task force, the ACIC collected and shared timely and targeted criminal intelligence on emerging threats and vulnerabilities in the region, working with our counterparts to build a richer understanding of offshore drug trafficking in the Pacific.
The ACIC derived significant new insights about the structure and methodologies of drug trafficking syndicates in the region, including high-value criminal targets within the organisations. The ACIC used these insights to support the development and implementation of operational responses, including through providing investigative and specialist resources to its policing partners, to disrupt the flow of illicit drugs and investigate and prosecute key members of drug trafficking syndicates.
These efforts have strengthened our relationships and collaboration with international partner agencies, enhancing the ACIC’s ability to identify and leverage strategic opportunities to create a more hostile environment for transnational serious and organised crime impacting Australia. The ‘Drug seizure in Solomon Islands’ feature provides further information.
Identifying criminal targets
In addition to the 95 previously unknown criminal targets identified in 2018–19, 54 previously known targets with involvement in new areas of criminality were identified, as shown in Figure 2.3.
Figure 2.3: Criminal targets identified
The APOT strategy is an ACIC-led initiative focused on identifying, assessing, designating and coordinating operational responses to the transnational serious and organised crime targets that pose the greatest threat to Australia’s interests. The intent of the strategy is to improve understanding and facilitate disruption, in collaboration with our domestic and international law enforcement and intelligence partners within local, regional and global contexts, to enhance community safety in Australia. In 2018–19, we assessed approximately 200 potential targets, resulting in the addition of 12 new targets to the APOT list, an increase compared to the addition of eight new targets during 2017–18.
Identifying and understanding APOTs is an important focus for Australian law enforcement. This was highlighted by the identification of a previously unknown transnational serious and organised crime syndicate operating in Canada and Hong Kong and impacting Australia during 2018–19. The ACIC adopted a proactive approach to understand the key entities, which were subsequently assessed as operating at APOT level. Ongoing operations further improved understanding of the syndicate, including its international and domestic linkages, and developed contemporary intelligence relating to methodologies, facilitators and locations relevant to their drug distribution and money-laundering activities. A significant amount of drugs were seized and several members of the domestic syndicate were disrupted as a result of resolution activities by the ACIC and enforcement partners in Sydney in 2018–19.
Work to reform the National Criminal Target List was the subject of ongoing discussions of the National Criminal Intelligence Capability Committee and the Serious and Organised Crime Coordination Committee.
Using coercive powers
We use coercive powers in special operations and special investigations to discover new information about serious and organised crime, by conducting examinations and issuing notices to produce documents or items. We share with partners our intelligence products containing discoveries and any understanding gained through the use of coercive powers. Results of this work are shown in Figure 2.4.
Figure 2.4: Notices, examinations and intelligence products derived from examinations
Stakeholder survey results
‘The ACIC has done very well leveraging off the international partner relationships and, as a consequence, has developed a good understanding of the drug trafficking around the globe.’—Australian Government stakeholder, 2019 Stakeholder Survey