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Police are increasingly focusing on corrupt business identities and public sector workers as they seek to turn up the pressure on organised crime networks.

The Serious Organised Crime Strategy 2011-2014, which is due to be publicly released soon, highlights identity theft, money laundering, technological crime, public sector corruption and weak legislation as the key facilitators of organised crime.

Assistant Commissioner Nick Anticich said police believed the weakest links in hardened organised crime circles were people who have legitimate jobs and businesses but were driven by greed to help criminals.

He said it was those people who police hoped to persuade to co-operate and collaborate in order to bring down organised crime operations in the state.

Police efforts will be helped by new co-operations between different police departments and outside agencies, which are outlined in the strategy.

Already a 12-month operation involving the Australian Taxation Office has targeted legitimate legal, financial and business professionals believed to be helping underworld figures launder money in WA.

The ongoing operation has identified up to $40 million in undeclared income, which police suspect is at the heart of mafia-style operations involving property deals, share trading and superannuation investments.

Aside from the ATO, WA police are now tapped into more national agencies’ networks than ever before, including that of the Australian Federal Police, Australian Securities and Investment Commission, AUSTRAC and eastern states police forces, Mr Anticich said.

He said the strategy was about getting specialists in each field to form “Strike Force” teams to target specific crimes.

This would see teams built to investigate crimes, compared to the previous approach when police would mostly operate on a lone basis and cases would be assigned to a single specialist squad.

Organised crime was considered responsible for the illicit drug trade, counterfeit goods, illegal firearms, extortion/kidnapping, child sex offences, sexual servitude and people trafficking, as well as insurance, welfare, investment and card fraud in WA.

“We want to cause people to think twice before engaging in that type of occupation,” Mr Anticich said.

He said in most cases legitimate operators displayed a “wilful blindness” or were simply driven by the desire for power in complying with such crimes.

However police would now utilise legislation and greater powers provided through the Corruption and Crime Commission to create a “hostile environment” for crime networks.

Already houses have been seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act after they were found to be used for manufacturing drugs, particularly growing cannabis.

Mr Anticich said police were planning to take the approach a step further and were currently working with state prosecutors on legislation surrounding the issue of unexplained wealth.

He said although the legislation had been sparingly used in the past, they were now trying to formulate ways to better utilise it in order to get more convictions.

“You may get rich quickly (through organised crime) but there’s a greater risk of getting locked-up and more chance of losing everything you have,” he said.

The strategy launch coincides with the release of the Australian Crime Commission’s Organised Crime in Australia report in Melbourne today.

“If the North Atrium of Federation Square were filled with $100 notes it would amount to $15 billion – that’s what Australians are losing to organised crime every year. It’s an enormous sum,” Justice Minister Brendan O’Connor said.

“We know that money is the lifeblood of organised crime and if we can stop the money flow we can stop organised criminals in their tracks.

“Organised Crime in Australia covers many different types of offences committed by organised crime but there’s one common factor – greed.

“Whether it’s amphetamine production, money laundering, online scams, corruption, fraud, identity crime or people smuggling – it’s all about the money for these criminal syndicates. If there is an opportunity to make money, organised criminals will try to exploit it.

Organised Crime in Australia provides government, industry and the public with the information they need to better understand and respond to the threat of organised crime – now and into the future.”

The unclassified report is drawn from information gathered from the Australian Crime Commission’s Commonwealth, state and territory partner agencies.

The ACC has produced two other similar reports since 2008, but this edition is the most comprehensive profile of organised crime in Australia to date. It includes the characteristics of those involved, what drives them and the activities they are involved in.

“Revealing these details for the first time is about being open with the Australian people and sharing what we’ve learned about organised crime operations in Australia,” Mr O’Connor said.

Australian Crime Commission CEO John Lawler said it was “essential reading for Australian businesses and communities”.

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