We improve the national ability to prevent and disrupt crime and protect the community.
An important element of our work is protecting the community by closing off opportunities for serious and organised crime to be undertaken. To achieve this, we use our intelligence and experience to participate in public inquiries or make submissions for legislative reform, and provide intelligence to partners which assists them to develop or implement compliance regimes which close off opportunities for criminal exploitation.
In 2018–19, we collaborated with our law enforcement and national security partners on key whole-of-government initiatives to ensure a stronger, safer and more secure Australia. This included participating in national policy responses, informing reviews and national forums and contributing to parliamentary inquiries.
Our results show that our intelligence has informed and influenced activities across a wide range of crime themes to harden the environment against serious and organised criminal activities. This is supported by our strong stakeholder survey results.
By informing and influencing responses to harden the environment against crime, we contribute to the shared efforts to prevent crime impacting Australia and to make Australia safer.
We measure our performance against this criterion through our achievements relating to informing partners and hardening the environment against crime, and instances where we have contributed to preventing crime. Our qualitative assessment of those achievements includes results from the annual stakeholder survey.
Legislation and national policy
During 2018–19, we were actively involved in a range of national policy issues and responses. For example, we worked with the Department of Home Affairs and other portfolio agencies to develop the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018, which became law in December 2018. This Act equips law enforcement and intelligence agencies with the tools they need to effectively operate in the digital era and keep the Australian community safe.
In late 2018, the ACIC worked with the Department of Home Affairs to re-make the Australian Crime Commission Regulations 2018, to better support the operation of the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 and national policing information systems that the ACIC administers.
The ACIC also supported the development of the Office of National Intelligence Act 2018, which established the Office of National Intelligence to lead and coordinate the expanded National Intelligence Community, of which the ACIC is a member.
We contributed to the National Strategy to Fight Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime. The strategy will strengthen Australia’s efforts across governments (domestically and internationally), the private sector, community, civil society and academia to combat the evolving threats from transnational serious and organised crime.
We contributed to the ‘Whole-of-Government Drug Strategy’ Budget measure to support the Australian Government’s commitment to tackle drug and alcohol abuse and minimise the associated harms to individuals and the community. To support the implementation of the strategy, the ACIC received funding in the 2019–20 Budget, including ongoing funding for the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program and the Australian Gangs Intelligence Coordination Centre.
Reviews and parliamentary inquiries
The ACIC has worked closely with the Department of Home Affairs and other operational agencies to support the portfolio’s engagement with the comprehensive review of the legal framework governing the National Intelligence Community (Richardson Review), which commenced in May 2018. The Richardson Review will prepare a classified report and recommendations for the Australian Government by the end of 2019.
The ACIC has also engaged with the ongoing review of arrangements for the protection and management of identity information in Australia, which commenced in September 2018. The review seeks to determine ways to enhance or strengthen arrangements that support and govern the protection and management of identity information.
In February 2019, the ACIC provided a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, supporting the passage of the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018. In particular, we provided information in relation to the threat posed by exploitation of encrypted technologies by criminal syndicates and the benefits that the Act will provide in assisting the ACIC to efficiently and effectively gather intelligence to investigate and disrupt serious and organised crime impacting Australia.
In March 2019, the ACIC provided a submission to the New South Wales Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’. Our submission focused on the methylamphetamine and MDMA markets and outlined the operational implications of any proposal to decriminalise or legalise amphetamine-type stimulants or other illicit drugs. In particular, we highlighted the likely increase in transnational and domestic serious and organised crime groups in these markets, and noted the importance of a coordinated, national response to drugs policy.
Stakeholder survey results
‘The ACIC’s national wastewater reporting continues to assist government decision-making.’—State government stakeholder, 2019 Stakeholder Survey
Table 2.4: Stakeholder survey results—Respond 1—Prevent
Respond 2A—Disrupt and protect
This performance criterion directly relates to our role working with our partners to disrupt serious and organised crime. There can be many influences on the trends in these results, particularly changes in priorities, staffing numbers, funding cycles and operational cycles, and it is usual to see results increase and decrease from year to year. In particular, individual seizures can spike a year’s result.
Overall, our 2018–19 performance results in relation to disruptions, seizures and proceeds of crime are all in line with four-year historical averages. Our recorded results for numbers of persons charged and charges laid are lower than average but in line with our increasing focus on the high-threat and international targets impacting Australia, which will decrease the numbers recorded against this measure.
Our stakeholder survey results for this criterion are strong, with 94 per cent of respondents agreeing that ACIC investigations were valuable to them.
We measure our performance against this criterion in terms of the year’s statistics on entities disrupted; apprehensions and convictions; seizures and confiscations of drugs and cash; and tax assessments and recoveries of assets. We also include stakeholder survey results.
A disruption is assessed as ‘severe’ if it results in the complete disruption or dismantling of a crime entity and the cessation of its serious and/or organised crime activities. A ‘significant’ disruption achieves a significant impact but not the complete disruption or dismantling.
In 2018–19, we contributed to partner law enforcement agencies’ disruptions of 28 criminal entities, which included one severe disruption and 27 significant disruptions. This compares with 22 disruptions, three severe and 19 significant, in 2017–18.
Over the course of 2017–18 and 2018–19, the ACIC and partner agencies produced an environmental scan on the use of Phantom Secure devices in Australia. The ACIC was at the forefront of the matter, undertaking a strategic environmental scan of the encrypted communications environment relating to Phantom Secure and providing it to the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group for consideration.
The ACIC continued to work closely with partners in Five Eyes and domestic agencies to effect the local resolution activities in Australia. This included a number of warrants executed by the ACIC in Queensland and New South Wales. In May 2019, the CEO of Phantom Secure was sentenced by the United States District Court for the Southern District of California to nine years imprisonment for selling encrypted devices used by criminals internationally, including in Australia, to facilitate murders and drug trafficking.
Three APOTs were disrupted in 2018–19 following successful law enforcement activity, including operations involving various Australian law enforcement partners. Four APOTs were disrupted in 2017–18.
The ‘Drug trafficking at Sydney Airport’ feature provides a case study of the ACIC’s contribution to disrupting criminal activity in Australia.
Multiagency task force activities
The ACIC participates in a wide range of formal and informal task forces, including multiagency task forces approved by the ACIC Board.
Multiagency task forces involve a broad range of partners working together to disrupt criminal enterprises through intelligence-led responses. Partners may include representatives from law enforcement, the regulatory sector, peak bodies and the private sector. Our role in multiagency task forces ranges from leading or jointly coordinating task forces to supporting task forces led by partner agencies.
National Task Force Morpheus
National Task Force Morpheus is a joint initiative of all Australian law enforcement agencies and Commonwealth partners to facilitate collaborative targeting of the highest OMCG risks to Australia. Morpheus was approved by the ACIC Board in September 2014, and is coordinated through the Australian Gangs Intelligence Coordination Centre (AGICC), housed in the ACIC.
The AGICC provides a dedicated intelligence capability for the National Anti-Gangs Squad led by the Australian Federal Police and provides intelligence and support to state and territory police anti-gangs squads under the auspices of Morpheus. Intelligence produced by the AGICC informs response strategies and future initiatives to tackle OMCGs.
In 2018–19, the task force’s achievements included:
- 2,454 arrests, summonses and court attendance notices and 5,704 charges
- seizure of 318 firearms and $5.3 million in cash.
Vestigo Task Force
The ACIC leads the Transnational Criminal Intelligence Task Force (Vestigo Task Force), which provides a framework for enhanced collaboration and engagement with Australian and international partners to share information and intelligence.
Rather than consisting of a particular program of work, the Vestigo Task Force acts as an enabler for collaborative work across various investigations and operations. This means that the task force’s results are incorporated within and reflected throughout the intelligence-led outcomes that we have achieved with partners, as described in this annual performance statement.
Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce
The Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce is led by the Australian Federal Police and includes the ACIC and the Australian Taxation Office. The task force is a Commonwealth initiative dedicated to taking the profit out of crime by targeting criminals and their assets derived from unexplained wealth. It was established in January 2011 to enhance the identification and pursuit of criminal wealth, where there is a link to a Commonwealth offence.
Our agency provides intelligence analysis and legal support, intelligence gathering, and strategic advice on illicit money flows impacting on Australia, and helps to generate and prioritise criminal targets for proceeds of crime action.
Results achieved from ACIC referrals on financial matters are detailed in Table 2.5. The increase in the entities involved is a result of a single referral that involved more than 60 separate entities. In addition to these results, 23 audits were ongoing as a result of ACIC referrals at 30 June 2019.
Table 2.5: Financial referrals to the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce and other partners
Serious Financial Crime Taskforce
The Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) forms part of the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre led by the Australian Federal Police. The SFCT brings together the knowledge, resources and experiences of federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies to identify and address serious and complex financial crimes.
The SFCT’s remit is to target the serious financial crimes of the highest priority. They include international tax evasion and criminality related to fraudulent phoenix activity, trusts and superannuation. Phoenix fraud involves a company deliberately liquidating assets to avoid paying debts to creditors, taxes and employee entitlements.
The SFCT focuses on conducting operations, collecting and sharing intelligence and identifying reform measures, with the aim of removing wealth from criminal activity, prosecuting facilitators and promoters of serious financial crime and deploying deterrent and preventative enforcement strategies.
Support provided by the ACIC included the development of:
- Tax Crime Enablers in Australia 2018, outlining the nature and extent of key enabling activities—technology, offshore service providers, and phoenixing activity
- a strategic threat assessment relating to superannuation fraud methodologies.
Illicit Tobacco Taskforce
It is illegal to grow tobacco in Australia, and excise is payable on all legally imported tobacco products. The Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) was established in July 2018 to protect Commonwealth revenue by proactively targeting, disrupting and dismantling serious actors and organised crime syndicates that deal in illicit tobacco.
The ITTF is led by the Australian Border Force and draws on the expertise and advanced capabilities of the Department of Home Affairs, the ACIC, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the Australian Taxation Office. The ITTF has a full array of powers to effectively investigate, prosecute and dismantle international organised crime groups that are profiting from the illicit tobacco trade.
In support of the ITTF’s activities in 2018–19:
- The ACIC provided intelligence support between the Australian Taxation Office and Australian Border Force during warrant activity when more than 17 acres of illegal tobacco crops and 6 tonnes of tobacco leaf, with a combined estimated excise value of $13.3 million, were uncovered in the Northern Territory.
- The ACIC provided ongoing intelligence and tactical support to an investigation of a syndicate suspected to be importing illicit tobacco. The ITTF noted the importance of outcomes achieved via ACIC surveillance activities in support of operational activities.
- ACIC members and ITTF partners jointly executed a Commonwealth excise search warrant at a rural property in Victoria, where almost 17 acres of illegal tobacco crops, with an estimated excise value of $6.6 million, were uncovered.
The Phoenix Taskforce was established in 2014 to provide a whole-of-government approach to combatting phoenix activity. It comprises 37 Commonwealth, state and territory government agencies, including the ACIC, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.
The Phoenix Taskforce has developed sophisticated data-matching tools to identify, manage and monitor suspected illegal phoenix operators. The task force supports businesses who want to do the right thing and will deal firmly with those who choose to engage in illegal phoenix behaviour.
Joint organised crime task forces
The ACIC cooperates with joint organised crime task forces in Victoria, Western Australian and Queensland. These task forces investigate, collect intelligence on and disrupt high-risk entities, either domestically or offshore, to reduce the threat of high-risk targets operating regionally and impacting nationally.
Figure 2.7 shows the total monetary value of illicit drugs and drug precursors, cash and tobacco seized by our national and international partners as a result of ACIC intelligence.
Figure 2.7: Drugs, cash and tobacco seized ($ million)
Arrests and convictions
Figure 2.8 provides details of the numbers of people charged, charges laid and convictions achieved by our partners as a result of ACIC intelligence.
Figure 2.8: Persons charged, charges laid and convictions
Stakeholder survey results
‘The ACIC has been a significant contributor to outcomes achieved involving joint operations. The national remit of the ACIC has been a valuable source of timely, actionable intelligence which has delivered great outcomes. Whereas previously the ACIC would jealously guard information, their approach has been far more open this year, to the benefit of our respective agencies.’—State government stakeholder, 2019 Stakeholder Survey
Table 2.6: Stakeholder survey results—Respond 2A—Disrupt and protect
Respond 2B—Disrupt and protect
This performance criterion relates to our role supporting our partners, particularly police, in the wide range of roles they undertake to protect the community against all types of crime, in a range of circumstances, including national disasters. This is distinct from the Respond 2A criterion, which relates specifically to responding to serious and organised crime.
It is not possible for us to measure the extent to which the systems and services we provide assist our partners to achieve outcomes that contribute to our shared purpose of keeping Australia safer—the relevant information is not available to us. Instead, we measure our performance under this criterion in terms of how well we have informed and enabled our partners through access to our national information systems and services.
An increase in system matches was seen for ballistic and fingerprint matches. In 2017–18, a number of profiles were added to the National Criminal Investigation DNA Database (NCIDD) due to a rule change within a jurisdiction. This resulted in a spike in the number of matches for 2017–18. Though the increase was smaller than in 2017–18, the 2018–19 matches for the NCIDD also show an increase over the historical trend.
Our performance results indicate that we have informed and enabled our partners through our delivery of national information systems and services, and this is supported by our positive stakeholder survey results. There was a small drop, to 89 per cent, in the proportion of stakeholders agreeing that ‘ACIC information and intelligence services were valuable to the work of their organisation’.
Our performance assessment for this criterion is driven by the results of our stakeholder survey. We also draw on data on system availability, service provision, service usage and service breadth, and measure data matches delivered through our frontline, biometric and forensic services.
Our frontline services enable police agencies to share essential policing information with each other in relation to people, vehicles, firearms and ballistics. This can assist them to undertake a broad range of community policing and criminal investigations. We also help police to solve crimes through our biometric services, including fingerprint and DNA systems. In addition, we provide services that assist police to identify missing persons, human remains and disaster victims.
Our protection services assist police to manage child offenders and identify child exploitation images. Our new Court Portal enables police and courts across Australia to access orders in relation to domestic violence. We also provide access to nationally coordinated criminal history checks and cybercrime reporting.
We continue to enhance firearm identification data contained within the National Firearms Identification Database. The data-cleansing process has involved removing approximately 1,900 make-and-manufacturer templates identified as being multiples of other records, incorrectly spelled or unable to be recognised as existing manufacturers. The process has also reviewed calibre listings and linked each make and manufacturer with metadata. Since 1 July 2018, we have also been recording the country of manufacture. The removal of incorrect firearm descriptors and the addition of extra firearm information to the existing datasets will support higher quality results from searches of the database.
The ACIC disclosed systems data to a police jurisdiction which advised that the information and a previously disclosed ACIC information report had directly assisted investigations by identifying several firearms that had been seized around Australia. The jurisdiction added that the ability of the ACIC’s National Firearm Trace Program to obtain firearm history and seizure details in a timely manner and provide them in an easy-to-understand format was greatly appreciated.
Positive data matches
With some of our services, we can capture the moment when a user makes a positive data match. Though this does not give full insight into the discoveries that our partners make when using the services we provide, it gives an indication of positive results from the system usage.
For all measurable services, the numbers of matches in 2018–19 were above the historical average, as shown in Table 2.7.
Table 2.7: Positive data matches found
Stakeholder survey results
Table 2.8: Stakeholder survey results—Respond 2B—Disrupt and protect