White Collar Crime Investigations and the CDPP

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) has a Commercial, Financial and Corruption Practice Group which prosecutes serious financial and white collar crimes, focusing on offences involving corporations, financial markets and services, large-scale tax fraud, criminal cartel conduct, money laundering, and bribery and corruption of Commonwealth and foreign officials.

In its Annual Report 2020-21, the CDPP provides provides some recent high profile case examples which illustrate the work of the Practice Group and its partner agencies in action.


Who refers white collar crime cases to the CDPP?

The top five referring agencies to the CDPP in 2020-21 are outlined in the table below.

Referring agency Percentage of referrals Number of cases referred
Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) 58.7% 81
Australian Federal Police (AFP) 25.4% 35
State and Territory Police Forces 8.7% 12
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) 4.3% 6
Australian Taxation Office (ATO) 2.2% 3


Trends observed in recent prosecutions

Some of the key trends observed in recent prosecutions include:

  • Disruptions caused by COVID-19 continue to impact the work of the CDPP, despite prosecutors having adapted well to new ways of working.
  • Consistent referrals from the ACCC relating to criminal cartel offences.
  • An increase in the number of cases referred, including some resulting from the Royal Commission into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services industry.
  • A continuing focus on foreign bribery.


Recent white collar crime cases in Australia

The report details two recent white collar crime cases in Australia related to the work of the CDPP’s Commercial, Financial and Corruption Practice Group.


Money laundering and tax fraud case study


Case background

Five offenders conspired to fraudulently obtain $2.5 million in tax refunds from the Commonwealth. The syndicate employed an intricate money laundering and fraudulent tax claim scheme involving hundreds of stolen identities, shell companies, bank accounts and false business activity statements.

One of the offenders, who was at the time an ATO employee, assisted his co-conspirators to acquire identity and taxpayer documentation from unsuspecting victims. The group then used these documents to set up hundreds of fake companies with associated bank accounts, which were used to lodge fraudulent expense claims to the ATO.

This case was investigated by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Taxation Office.


Case result

The CDPP successfully prosecuted the crimes undertaken by the syndicate relating to money laundering and defrauding the Commonwealth.


Money laundering offences

Four of the five offenders were prosecuted for money laundering offences contrary to s. 400.9(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

The former ATO employee was sentenced to 32 months’ imprisonment and released forthwith on a recognizance release order (RRO) for 15 months.

The sentences for the three other offenders ranged from 3-18 months’ imprisonment. The individuals were either released immediately or early on RRO’s of varying terms.


Fraud offences

Three of the five offenders, who acquired identity documentation from the victims and used them to lodge fraudulent expense claims to the ATO, were prosecuted for conspiracy to dishonestly obtain a gain from the Commonwealth contrary to s.135.4(1) of the Criminal Code.

Two of these individuals were each sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years, while the other was sentenced to two years and six months’ imprisonment released forthwith on an RRO for two years.

The former ATO employee was not prosecuted for these offences, even though he assisted his co-conspirators to obtain the victims’ documentation which was used to perpetrate the fraud.


Cartel conduct case study


Case background

Between June 2011 and July 2012, shipping company WWO engaged in cartel conduct by entering into an agreement with competitors, including shipping companies NYK and K-Line, to allocate certain customers between themselves on international shipping routes, including routes to Australia.

This conduct is criminalised under s.44ZZRG(1) of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth). Investigations were conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).


Case result

The investigation led to the successful prosecution and conviction of the shipping companies and resulted in fines totalling $83.5 million. In August 2017, NYK was fined $25 million and in August 2019, K-Line was fined $34.5 million.

WWO was fined $24 million in February 2021. This marked the conclusion of the first major cartel investigations since criminal cartel offences were introduced in Australia in July 2009.


Key takeaways

The CDPP’s Commercial, Financial and Corruption Practice Group is responsible for prosecuting serious white collar crimes, following the investigations of its partner agencies. Recent cases demonstrate that offending individuals and companies cannot expect to simply receive a “slap on the wrist”, with hefty fines and terms of imprisonment a real possibility.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in complex international investigations involving the CDPP.

Contact us if you require assistance.