The Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group is an alliance of security and intelligence agencies from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which share information and coordinate efforts to combat international crime.
In a recent address to the Five Eyes, AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw stated that “Our operational focus remains countering terrorism, espionage and foreign interference; child exploitation; cyber; fraud, and transnational serious organised crime – what we call TSOC”.
This article explores the current global criminal environment and key threats identified by Commissioner Kershaw in his address.
Key points of the address to the Five Eyes
The need for even greater international cooperation
Commissioner Kershaw said that “A significant number of TSOC syndicates targeting Australia have moved offshore to escape or deceive law enforcement. In some cases, this deception is enabled by the inaction of certain governments”.
The Commissioner explained that while every country has its own political systems to navigate, there is an increasing need to leverage collective legislation, capability and intelligence to effectively combat TSOC.
“Police-to-police relationships cannot be undervalued and will become more important as parts of the world remain unsettled,” continued the Commissioner.
The war on drugs
The Commissioner explained that a great share of the turmoil caused by transnational serious organised crimes such as child exploitation, sexual servitude, human trafficking, cybercrime and corruption can be linked to the trafficking of illicit drugs, because the proceeds are often used to fund these crimes.
He even described how the drug problem makes our roads less safe, saying that “A motorist affected by drugs is the equivalent of a loaded weapon behind the wheel of a car.”
“This is why the AFP is dedicated to targeting those who profit from illicit drugs – so we can reduce the harm and significant impact on our community”, said the Commissioner.
TSOC as a national security threat
Commissioner Kershaw highlighted how TSOC threatens national and international security, public health and safety, democratic institutions, and global economic stability.
“In Australia, TSOC undermines our economy, social security system and tests the integrity of public institutions and officials”, said the Commissioner.
The security issue was linked to the drug problem, which can impact on regional security, food security and the stability of governments.
“The traditional definition of what is a national security threat is being re-written because of the very nature and impact of organised crime.”
Rinse and repeat
Commissioner Kershaw stated that some countries are “Turning a blind eye to the proceeds of crime washing through their economies.”
He explained how money laundering organisations from one region alone are clearly visible in all Five Eyes countries and recalled the need for greater international cooperation to combat these crimes, because failure to do so will allow these criminal networks to become wealthier and more powerful.
The Commissioner detailed the successes of Operation Ironside, where the AFP and FBI covertly operated and monitored an encrypted communication platform that was used by criminals to plan drug deals and money laundering schemes.
“In Australia, Operation Ironside charged 383 alleged offenders with 2430 offences. More than 6.2 tonnes of illicit drugs and $55.6 million in cash have been seized. Already, 42 people have pleaded guilty or have been sentenced”, said Commissioner Kershaw.
“Globally, and excluding Australian statistics, more than 700 alleged offenders have been charged and 65 tonnes of illicit drugs seized.”
While the Five Eyes has had significant successes, such as those achieved with Operation Ironside, the AFP Commissioner recognises that the group can do better, and that it is essential to do so to protect national and international security, public health and safety, democratic institutions, and global economic stability.