With the increasing prevalence of transnational and cyber-enabled crime and the globalisation of international markets, there has been an increasing need for international cooperation in dealing with transnational crimes and in dealing with extradition and mutual assistance matters.
Every country differs in their approach to combating transnational crime and has different extradition and mutual assistance laws. Efforts have been made to harmonise the various laws however this still presents ongoing challenges.
United Nations Convention and Central Authorities
The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, in article 18, paragraph 13, specifically references the creation of a central authority for each of the parties to the Convention and makes it compulsory that each party designate a central authority for the purposes of mutual legal assistance. There is no requirement for the central authority to be created for the purposes of extradition, although it is common practice in a number of countries for this office to also be responsible for dealing with extradition matters.
International Crime Cooperation
In Australia, the relevant central authority is the International Crime Cooperation, which holds the following responsibilities:
- Extradition: responsible for extradition casework arising under the Extradition Act 1988
- International transfer of prisoners: responsible for casework arising under the International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997
- Mutual Assistance: responsible for casework arising under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987
Benefits of Australia’s International Crime Cooperation and foreign central authorities
The International Crime Cooperation Central Authority is the hub for any sort of international criminal legal cooperation between Australia and other countries. The benefit of having this central authority is that Australia has more control over incoming and outgoing requests for cooperation in relation to mutual assistance and extradition matters, and a centre of expertise with respect to international cooperation.
The existence of central authorities in foreign countries also allows Australia to develop a knowledge base of other legal systems and the requirements of those systems.
INTERPOL and its interaction with central authorities
INTERPOL can be utilized in urgent circumstances as a communications conduit for mutual assistance and extradition matters should the need arise.
INTERPOL has a network of national central bureaux that liaise with other departments of a member state, with national central bureaux in other states and with the General Secretariat of INTERPOL. Each national central bureau is connected to the I-24/7 network, which enables the transmission of requests for cooperation in relation to mutual assistance and extradition matters in a timely and secure manner.
Police liaison officer programmes and their interaction with INTERPOL and central authorities
Police liaison officer programmes can also be highly beneficial to international cooperation. Many police forces throughout the world have officers posted overseas to liaise with police forces in specific countries or geographical areas.
As a result, they possess knowledge in their area of operations, such as the command structure of local police forces; the structure of local administrations, including the courts; and local geographical or political challenges that may exist, all of which may have a bearing on matters pertaining to international cooperation.
The liaison officers can also perform a useful reporting function, being the “eyes and ears” of a central authority and keeping other participants informed of potential challenges that may arise in the course of a mutual assistance or extradition request.
In complex transnational criminal matters it is common to see cooperation between Australia’s domestic police force with members of foreign law enforcement posted to Australia in areas concerning procedure, cross border investigations and the sharing of information regarding cases which may be relevant to both, or multiple jurisdictions. This creates an informal system of information sharing which is often unregulated, unlike the prescriptive nature of formal mutual assistance requests. This carries the risk that the information that is being exchanged is not sufficiently scrutinised to ensure that it complies with any relevant privacy and/or secrecy laws operating in Australia.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) across the world
The AFP International Operations incorporates Liaison Officers, Police Advisors and Missions across five regions, each with a regional manager:
- The Americas
- Europe, Africa and the Middle East
- Pacific and External Territories
- South East Asia
The regional managers are responsible for overseeing and providing strategic leadership and guidance for senior liaison officers and advisors and implementing region wide law enforcement. The posts within each region have responsibility for a number of countries within that region.
In an increasingly connected world and with the growth of crimes with a transnational character, central authorities such as Australia’s International Crime Cooperation benefit from utilising the expertise and capabilities of INTERPOL and police liaison officer programmes, to complement the work of the central authority. It is nevertheless important to ensure that sufficient regulatory oversight remains in place to avoid any unintended human rights breaches of those being investigated.