Reports show worrying reality of offshore organised crime threats

A vital arm of Australia’s top criminal intelligence agency has revealed that up to 70 per cent of serious and organised crime threats are “based offshore or have strong offshore links”. The findings from the Australian Crime Commission’s (ACC) final annual report, now part of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), reiterates evidence from the 2014 Senate Inquiry into gun-related violence that identified illegal firearms imports as a real threat and key source of supply to the black market.

Along with illegal firearm imports from offshore groups, the rise of criminals using ‘darknets’ to peddle their illicit wares was noted as a key concern to law enforcement. This concern was recently highlighted by Victoria Police which revealed it has charged people with buying illicit firearms on darknet websites. ACIC CEO Chris Dawson told media that although some darknet websites such as Silk Road have been shut down, criminals are still using other online platforms to deal in illicit items. “Anyone thinking of engaging in illegal activity through these websites cannot be guaranteed of remaining anonymous and if caught they will be prosecuted,” he said.

The ACC reiterated the reported $36 billion cost of serious and organised crime in Australia per year, saying “that is $1561 out of every Australian’s pocket, and adds 6.3 per cent to the average cost of living.” Illicit commodities, including firearms, were found to cost the nation around $1.5 billion in policing and law enforcement.

The report also detailed the results of special operations and national taskforces, such as Operation Morpheus, which saw 140 illicit firearms and 11,936 rounds of ammunition seized in its mission to shut down the one per cent of motorcycle gangs that operate outside of the law. An extra 61 illicit firearms were reportedly seized from other organised crime groups. The ACIC recently released a national picture of Australia’s illicit firearms market, reiterating that “the use and movement of illicit firearms by criminals is a serious national problem.”

CrimTrac, now another arm of the ACIC, also issued its final annual report. CrimTrac houses the national firearms identification and ballistics databases. The report shows that there are more than 5.7 million firearm records and 1.9 million licences in the system, although this includes expired, security and other licences. The new Australian Firearms Information Network, which is meant to be operational now, documents the life of every known firearm in the country “from import or manufacture for sale in Australia through to export or destruction”. This information is sourced from the state and territory firearm registries, which the SSAA-LA has long pointed out contains flawed and outdated information.

SSAA-LA’s Kate Fantinel said these reports provide vital insight into the realities of the illicit firearms market and some of the key ways in which criminals are sourcing their illicit wares. “The fact that there is a national super agency specifically tasked with monitoring, identifying and reporting on the activities of organised crime groups, with a focus on illicit firearms, shows just how seriously law enforcement agencies are taking the threat of illegal imports and online trade,” she said. “The illicit firearms market is of concern to everyone, particularly licensed firearm owners who don’t want to see firearms in the wrong hands. Any intelligence that assists law enforcement in clamping down on organised crime groups will provide public safety benefits for all Australians.”

The Federal Government is moving forward with plans to merge the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), which also issued its annual report listing firearms research as part of their research agenda, with the ACIC.

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