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Respond

We improve the national ability to prevent and disrupt crime and protect the community.

Respond 1

Table showing Performance criterion for Respond 1—The ACIC better informs and influences collaborative efforts to harden the environment against crime. Result–Met.

Achievements

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.

The primary focus of our work is to protect the community from the threat of transnational serious and organised crime. To reduce the impact of transnational serious and organised crime on Australia, the ACIC uses its specialist capabilities and powers to collect, assess and distribute actionable intelligence to law enforcement and intelligence partners, both domestically and overseas. In support of these efforts, the ACIC actively participates in the development, implementation and evaluation of policy and legislation relating to agency powers and functions, emerging issues and trends, and oversight of the broader intelligence and law enforcement community.

National policy

During 2019–20, the ACIC provided a number of submissions to the Comprehensive Review of the Legal Framework Governing the National Intelligence Community, and worked with the Attorney-General’s Department and the broader Home Affairs portfolio to collaboratively develop the Australian Government response. The recommendations of the review and the government response are expected to be publicly released in August 2020.

In 2019–20, the ACIC lodged a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security review of the mandatory data retention regime. The submission outlined the effectiveness of the existing data retention regime in balancing the ACIC’s vital need for timely and consistent access to telecommunications data with the need for firm accountability mechanisms to ensure that access remains proportionate and transparent.

Legislation

In 2019, the ACIC worked with the Department of Home Affairs to develop amendments to the ACC Act to streamline the process by which the ACIC Board authorises the ACIC to undertake special operations or investigations in relation to serious and organised crime. These amendments also confirmed the validity of existing special operation and special investigation determinations, ensuring that the ACIC could continue to effectively fulfil its statutory functions and actively contribute to a safer and more secure Australia.

In November 2019, the ACIC lodged a submission to the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor’s review of the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018. Through its submission, the ACIC addressed the agency’s implementation and use of powers under the Act; the persistent threat environment in which intelligence and law enforcement agencies operate; and the critical need to ensure that the ACIC’s search and surveillance powers in the cyber domain are equivalent to its existing powers in the physical domain.

In February 2020, the ACIC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) appeared at a public hearing of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee inquiry into the Transport Security Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill 2019. At the hearing, the CEO identified significant threats to Australia’s border environments from serious and organised crime, including at airports, seaports and offshore facilities. The CEO also discussed the potential use of ACIC criminal intelligence in background checking for the aviation and maritime security identification card schemes, noting the residual risk posed by card holders who may not have serious criminal convictions but have been identified as having links to serious and organised crime groups.

Stakeholder survey results

The ACIC has been providing intelligence in a timely matter so we can act on the information asap.’—State policing partner, 2020 Stakeholder Survey

Table 2.4: Stakeholder survey results—Respond 1

 ACIC intelligence and information inform policy/legal response to criminal activity threatening Australiaa; Proportion of respondents who agreed or strongly agreed 2019–20 = 84% a change of +8 from 2018–19 = 76% 2017–18 = 75%. Footnote: a. This survey statement is used in the performance results for two criteria, Understand 2 and Respond 1, as they both relate to guiding strategies and preventative responses.

Respond 2

Table showing performance criterion for Respond 2—The ACIC is conducting collaborative investigations and intelligence operations, and producing intelligence with and for partners that is effective in disrupting, disabling and dismantling serious and organised crime. Result–Met.

Achievements

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.

Disruptions

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 2019–20, the work of the ACIC contributed to 33 significant disruptions and one severe disruption (compared to the previous year’s result of 27 significant disruptions and one severe disruption).

To achieve the complete dismantling of a crime entity or cessation of its serious and organised crime is exceptionally difficult, due to the large, complex and international networks many serious and organised criminal syndicates employ. In the past three years, the ACIC has contributed to three severe disruptions.

In 2019–20, our Australian law enforcement and offshore partners disrupted five APOT networks to the point that they are no longer considered APOT-level threats. Elements of a further 14 APOT networks were significantly disrupted, decreasing the overall threat of the criminal organisation, but leaving it still able to operate at the APOT level.

No individuals designated as the head of an APOT organisation were arrested, compared to three in 2018–19 and four in 2017–18. This reflects a change in strategy, shifting focus from disrupting APOT individuals to disrupting the APOT organisations. While focusing on disrupting individuals has had success in the past, disrupting multiple elements of the APOT organisation has a much more significant and long-term disruptive effect.

The ACIC, together with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), investigated alleged proceeds of crime from illicit drug activities. Search warrants were executed resulting in an arrest and the seizure of methylamphetamine and a large sum of cash. It was determined the suspect was likely an upper level distributor of methylamphetamine for an organised crime syndicate. The arrest is likely to have a noticeable impact on the distribution activities of the syndicate.

The Feature: Joint efforts disrupt transnational syndicate distributing drugs to Australia provides a detailed case study of the ACIC’s contribution to disrupting the highest level serious organised 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 law enforcement initiative through which all Australian state and territory police, the AFP National Anti-Gangs Squad, other Australian Government partners and New Zealand Police collaboratively target the highest threat OMCGs impacting Australia. Morpheus was approved by the ACIC Board in September 2014.

The task force takes coordinated multiagency action against the highest threat OMCGs, with a focus on cross-border serious criminal activity. The task force facilitates the development and implementation of joint response strategies to prevent, disrupt and dismantle OMCGs. These responses are overseen by a management group of senior officers from each participating agency. The head of the task force is currently drawn from the Queensland Police Service, supported by a deputy from the ACIC.

Morpheus adopts an intelligence-led approach to targeting high-threat OMCGs. This is facilitated by the AGICC, in close collaboration with Morpheus partner agencies. As part of this process, the maintenance of a National Gangs List (a secure, validated and nationally endorsed list of OMCG members) is a key focus of the AGICC. Intelligence produced by the AGICC informs response strategies and future initiatives to tackle OMCGs.

In 2019–20, the task force’s achievements included:

  • 2,393 arrests, summonses and court attendance notices and 5,590 charges
  • seizure of 170 firearms and $4.3 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 AFP and includes the ACIC and the Australian Taxation Office. The task force is an Australian Government 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 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.

Table 2.5: Financial referrals to the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce and other partners

Detail

Four-year historical average

2019–20

Referrals

20

9

Entities involved

137

68

Total value of offending ($ million)

83.17

22.17

Serious Financial Crime Taskforce

The Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) forms part of the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre led by the AFP. 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, with a specific focus on four key areas:

  • cybercrime (technology-enabled crime) affecting the tax and superannuation systems
  • offshore tax evasion
  • illegal phoenix activity
  • serious financial crime affecting the Australian Taxation Office administered measures of the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Act 2020.

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.

The ACIC hosts the Financial Crime Fusion Centre – a critical component of the SFCT. By co-locating seconded members from participating agencies, we can leverage our coercive powers and criminal intelligence holdings, while simultaneously maximising collaboration for greater effectiveness.

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.

Our intelligence activities undertaken as part of the ITTF focused on:

  • domestic manufacturing capabilities
  • illicit tobacco importation and distribution and associated money laundering
  • identification of source countries, capabilities and involvement of serious and organised crime groups.

In support of these priorities, 27 examinations were conducted during the period.

As a result of the ITTF’s activities in 2019–20:

  • ACIC members and ITTF partners jointly developed a strategic intelligence product on the impact of COVID-19 on the Australian illicit tobacco market.
  • With the ITTF and Australian Border Force Joint Strike Teams, we conducted targeting of entities involved in illicit importation, facilitation and distribution to a Chinese illicit tobacco supplier, a Middle Eastern facilitator, and domestic financial facilitators.
  • We developed operational intelligence products on a range of illicit tobacco activities in Australia, such as the impact of COVID-19 on localised product shortages and price spikes.
  • We provided specialist capability support to ITTF operations on surveillance, telephone interception, controlled operations and surveillance device capabilities.
Phoenix Taskforce

The Phoenix Taskforce was established in 2014 to provide a whole-of-government approach to combatting phoenix activity. It comprises 38 Commonwealth, state and territory government agencies, including the ACIC, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Fair Work Ombudsman.

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 Australia, the Northern Territory 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.

Seizures

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)

 (a) The trendline represents the four-year historical average. (b) Estimated street values of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals, based on drug price data contained in the Illicit Drug Data Report 2017–18. (c) Tracking of tobacco seizures commenced in 2017–18. The historical average trendline will be added from 2020–21. Tobacco excise has been estimated using rates provided on the Australian Taxation Office website.

Arrests and convictions

As an intelligence agency, the ACIC is focusing its efforts on the development and sharing of intelligence information that supports resolution activities by our partners. Therefore, the decline in the numbers of charges laid, persons charged and convictions recorded are not unexpected, as our work has shifted away from resolution activities.

In order to prioritise performance measures that more clearly reflect the performance of the ACIC, we will not report on these numbers in future annual reports. However, they will continue to be reported in the ACIC Board’s Chair annual report as required by section 61 of the ACC Act.

The numbers of charges laid, persons charged and convictions recorded give some indication of the disruptive impact of the ACIC’s work, as these activities disrupt organised criminal activity. 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 AGICC’s sharing of information and liaison and assistance has been pivotal to our investigations and intelligence team.’—State policing partner, 2020 Stakeholder Survey

Table 2.6: Stakeholder survey results—Respond 2

 ACIC investigations were of value or great value to them; Proportion of respondents who agreed or strongly agreed 2019–20 = 95% a change of +1 from 2018–19 = 94%, 2017–18 = 99%.

Respond 3

Achievements

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.

In 2019–20 the ACIC undertook a structural reform to enhance our ability to support our clients, partners and government, with a specific focus on stakeholder engagement; system and service sustainability, opportunities for improvement, project management and problem resolutions. At the forefront of this was the development of four business hubs that act as a single-entry point for internal and external clients and our partners, namely biometric/forensics, frontline systems, NPCS, and intelligence and corporate.

Services provided

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 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.

Service enhancements

During 2019–20, the National Police Reference System (NPRS) Data Quality Project actively improved the quality of the data managed by Australian police services and provisioned to the NPRS, using a collaborative continuous improvement approach. Police partner agencies identify the data, records and issues of highest business value to them, and the ACIC bases its activities on those high-value items.

In late 2019, a number of policing information systems were retired as their functionality was transferred to other, more contemporary IT systems. They included the National Names Index, which was replaced by the NPRS, and the National Firearms Licensing and Registration System, which was replaced by the Australian Firearms Information Network (AFIN). These changes allowed for improved user interactions and enhanced software capabilities.

We assured our stakeholders that the NAFIS will be supported with contemporary technology until 2024, by commencing a project to refresh the hardware. The ACIC provided expert advice and training to approximately 150 NAFIS users across Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. The training was designed to improve partner agencies’ understanding and knowledge of the system, aiming to increase the value that partners gain from utilising the system.

NAFIS NextGen is the planned new version of NAFIS. It will ensure that fingerprint identification capability used by all police partner agencies continues to be supported and will deliver process automation to increase efficiencies for partner agency staff. The ACIC hosted three high-level workshops to gather information on NAFIS NextGen requirements, with NAFIS practitioners from partner agencies. This helped in the development and submission of a NAFIS NextGen business case.

The NCIS Interim Solution was shut down in December 2019. It was a proof-of-concept system developed as a pilot for the full NCIS, and was not intended to be a production system. The data in the interim system became out of date and further updates were not feasible. The numbers of active users and searches conducted using the interim system declined in the final months before the system was shut down.

The ACIC is working towards having a production-ready version of NCIS available for policing agencies by the end of 2020, with police agencies progressively contributing more information connecting NCIS to their frontline systems through 2021.

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 2019–20 is consistent with the historical average, as shown in Table 2.7.

Table 2.7: Positive data matches

Service type

System name

Four-year historical average

2019–20

Frontline

Australian Ballistic Information Networka

78

77

Biometric and forensic

National Automated Fingerprint Identification System

92,162

107,038

National Criminal Investigation DNA Database

85,268

111,393

⬆ = Result 5% or more above historical average

⬇ = Result 5% or more below historical average

↔ = Result within 5% of historical average

a Because of Australia’s gun control regulations and relatively low level of gun crime, ballistics matches are less common than fingerprint or DNA matches across multiple crime scenes.

Stakeholder survey results

Table 2.8: Stakeholder survey results—Respond 3

 ACIC national policing and intelligence systems enabled them to do their jobs more effectively; Proportion of respondents who agreed or strongly agreed 2019–20 = 87% a change of +8 from 2018–19 = 79% 2017–18 = 67%.