Organised crime is a significant problem for Australia. The financial cost alone runs into billions each year, requiring law enforcement to consistently find new and improved ways to deal with serious gangland and other activities.
As part of the Australian Government’s ongoing attempts to tackle organised crime, the Australian Crime Commission released the National Organised Crime Response Plan 2015-2018. As set out in the plan, the key threats currently posed by organised crime include:
- The ongoing impact of drugs, particularly methylamphetamine (also known as ice)
- Increasing use of and reliance on technology by sophisticated cyber criminals.
- Targeting of the Australian financial sector, including the stock market, taxation office and superannuation industries.
- Professional money launderers focusing on increased use of digital currencies and transactions.
- Illegal manufacture, sale, and use of firearms.
The plan sets out a number of recommended initiatives which it intends to implement to deal with these threats. We examine some of the key initiatives below.
Focusing on Methylamphetamine availability
Identified as a key priority, Australian law enforcement intends to limit the prevalence of methylamphetamine (and particularly ice) in the community by:
- Creating a National Law Enforcement Methylamphetamine Strategy which will promote interstate coordination and intelligence-gathering in relation to the manufacture and production of methylamphetamine.
- Introducing an End User Declaration Scheme. As the manufacture of amphetamines requires certain specific substances known as precursor chemicals, law enforcement intends to require information as to how those substances might be used legitimately in order to track down manufacturers of illicit drugs. The creation of a national list of precursor chemicals and enhanced focus on sharing information relating to the availability of these ingredients are also on law enforcement’s radar.
- Improving regulations and guidelines nationally in relation to the detection of clandestine drug manufacturers.
- Considering a waste water review scheme which will aid in tracking data about the use of methylamphetamine.
Tackling the gun issue
Importing, manufacturing or trading in guns – and then using those weapons to commit serious crimes – is a problem in the world of organised crime. The plan suggests that this might be tackled by:
- Creating a National Firearms Interface which would clearly list ownership and provenance of all guns and similar weapons. Other national approaches are also being considered to improve information sharing about illegal gun owners and traders.
- Introducing Firearm Prohibition Orders throughout Australia and ensuring that this information is readily shared – so that people who are banned from holding weapons in NSW are not able to cross the border and simply purchase a gun in South Australia.
- Updating the National Firearms Agreement to ensure that it is in sync with technological advancements.
Prioritising cybercrime committed by organised groups
Cyber crime has also been identified as a priority area for action. The plan recommends the implementation of the following:
- Improving implementation of the National Plan to Combat Cybercrime, particularly by taking a cohesive approach to law enforcement and industry and improving education and criminal justice frameworks.
- Focusing on collaborative operations between state police and the Australian Federal Police, with a particular intention of tackling online drug trafficking and sales.
- Improving cooperation and brainstorming nationally for all law enforcement organisations, through the introduction of a Technical Capability Community of Interest. This aims to ensure that any capability gaps or risks are identified and dealt with.
Dealing with financial crimes
In order to deal with the wide gamut of financial crimes which can be easily committed in a hyper-connected world, the plan recommends:
- The establishment of a Serious Financial Crime Taskforce between multiple agencies, to ensure that significant financial crimes are paid due attention.
- The creation of a national scheme of “unexplained wealth”. This is to be achieved with improved cooperation between state and Commonwealth agencies, with a particular focus on information sharing.
- Improving the powers and capabilities of AUSTRAC.
- In a regional sense, promoting and advertising the Asset Recovery Interagency Network – Asia-Pacific to assist in mitigating losses incurred as a result of financial crimes.
Cooperation is key
Underpinning the majority of threats posed by serious organised crime is a tendency to July 2017 for Australian agencies to fail to properly cooperate in investigations and subsequent prosecutions. Accordingly, the plan suggests improvements to:
- The national criminal intelligence system, including permitting greater ease of access and improved infrastructure.
- Information sharing between all departments, but specifically between the ATO, Centrelink and AUSTRAC, in order to identify persons with unexplained wealth.
- Analysing and sharing intelligence obtained from incarcerated high-risk criminal targets.
- Legislation aimed at high-level information sharing, particularly by reviewing the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002.
- Law enforcement’s ability to track and locate persons of interest, especially by considering a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability.
There are many threats to Australia posed by organised crime. Nonetheless, the plan sets out a clear roadmap of how Australian authorities intend to continue investigating and prosecuting these types of crimes.
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