AFP operations helping to keep Victorians safe in 2021

The AFP in Victoria have charged 133 offenders with 457 Commonwealth offences in 2021, underscoring the crackdown on crime in the state.

The AFP has seized more than 6.3 tonnes of illicit drugs to date in Victoria – including more than 3.2 tonnes of stimulants and 368 kgs of cocaine – to date this calendar year.

In Victoria, the AFP has worked with key law enforcement partners to keep the community safe, targeting organised crime, drug traffickers, serious financial crime, cybercrime, human trafficking and child sex offenders.

Assistant Commissioner Southern Command Krissy Barrett said the offences investigated by the AFP were often complex and required specialist skill and capability.

"The AFP is unleashing maximum damage to the criminal environment in Victoria,'' Assistant Commissioner Barrett said.

"There are transnational serious organised criminals who are offshore and organise and direct criminal activity in Victoria.

"Being offshore will not prevent the long arm of the AFP and our partners from disrupting their criminal networks offshore or in Victoria.

"We are building cases right now against criminals who think they have escaped justice. The AFP is posted in 33 countries and our law enforcement networks are working together to target crime bosses who think they are untouchable.

"Equally, Australians who commit crimes overseas, including child sex offences, will be targeted by the AFP.

"Child sex tourism is a crime and the AFP is relentless in investigating alleged offenders who travel overseas to prey on young, vulnerable children and families."

Assistant Commissioner Barrett said the AFP's operational results in 2021 were substantial, and thanked Victoria Police and other key law enforcement partners for working so collaboratively with the AFP.

Significant outcomes include;

  • Operation Acaz began in September 2021, when consignments linked to a Melbourne-based organised crime syndicate were located in Canada. One consignment, containing 142kgs of methamphetamine, was destined for Melbourne, and 100kgs of methamphetamine was destined for Sydney. On 17 November 2021, three alleged offenders were arrested and search warrants were executed at associated premises. Search warrants resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million in cash, drugs, a handgun, a shotgun and firearm parts, as well as a clandestine drug laboratory and drug manufacturing equipment.
  • Operation Olympus this year investigated the importation of 483kg of Double UO Globe heroin – the largest heroin seizure recorded in Australia. The heroin was contained in 1290 packages concealed within a 20 pallet consignment of glazed tiles. The heroin was delivered to an address before being transported to a warehouse operated by an alleged primary target.  The target allegedly unpacked the consignment in October and was arrested and charged. The AFP in Kuala Lumpur continues its inquiries into the offshore entities involved in the importation.
  • Operation Riverlight was an AFP and Victoria Police Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET) investigation into a former Catholic priest and Sydney- based lawyer who was identified as a suspected child sex offender. It was suspected the man was travelling offshore to commit offences using his employment as a migration lawyer and volunteering as an English teacher as a reason for travelling to countries that are a high risk for child sex tourism. When the man returned to Australia in 2018, it is alleged child abuse material was identified on a device. Search warrants were executed at premises associated with the man during which it is alleged evidence of his offending overseas was located. Southern Command JACET members travelled to Cebu, Philippines, and conducted 14 interviews with young males, suspected to be the victims of the man.  As well as positively identifying the man, the evidence the boys provided also detailed the involvement of a Cebu-based facilitator, who has subsequently been sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment. The Australian man pleaded guilty to all charges, which included six charges of engage in sexual intercourse with a child outside of Australia and 15 charges of production of child pornography material outside Australia relating to offending committed in South East Asia.  On 4 June 2021, the man appeared before the District Court of NSW and was sentenced to a total of 19 years' imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 14 years. The man has filed an appeal against his sentence, a date is yet to be fixed for his appeal.
  • Operation Cupola began in 2015 when the AFP's Southern Command Human Trafficking Team received information from Australian Border Force that a woman had been admitted to hospital with severe malnourishment, gangrene of the feet and hands. The victim reported that she had been employed to provide live-in domestic help to two people and  their family but had received no payment and was not permitted to leave the residence. In 2016, two Victorians were charged with possessing a slave, contrary to s270.3(1)(a) of the Criminal Code (Cth); and using a slave, contrary to s270.3(1)(a) of the Criminal Code (Cth). In December 2017, both accused were committed to stand trial and on 8 February 2021, a jury trial commenced in the Supreme Court of Victoria. The commencement of the trial was delayed a number of times due to the volume of pre-trial arguments (lasting about 100 sitting days), the mental health of one of the defendants and Covid-19 effecting jury empanelment. On 23 April 2021, a jury returned guilty verdicts in respect of each charge for each of the two accused. Sentencing submissions were heard on 29 and 30 June 2021 and on 21 July 2021, one Victorian woman was sentenced to 4 years' imprisonment on the charge of possess a slave and 8 years' imprisonment on the charge of use a slave. The sentences are to be served concurrently and she will be eligible for parole in four years. One Victorian man was sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment on the charge of possess a slave and 6 years' imprisonment on the charge of use a slave. The sentences are to be served concurrently and he will be eligible for parole in three years.
  • Operation Ironside South Andiamo was an investigation into an organised crime syndicate conspiring to import commercial quantities of drugs using sophisticated importation methods. The investigation resulted in the identification of two separate import streams with the AFP successfully thwarting the syndicates plans to import 1200kg of illicit drugs from the US and 400kg of illicit drugs from India. On 7 June 2021, seven people were arrested and charged with conspiracy to import commercial quantities of border controlled drugs and related offences. Among items seized in search warrants were $1,000,000 in cash, $80,000 in gold bullion, three firearms and quantities of drugs.  About $8,000,000 in criminal assets have also been restrained to date.
  • Operation Macon was a joint investigation between the AFP, ATO and Australian Criminal  Intelligence Commission under the auspices of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT). The investigation also involved cooperation with Jersey, US, UK and British Virgin Islands officials.  The alleged offending relates to the channelling of revenue from a global IT enterprise through an off-shore trust structure for the purpose of evading taxation obligations in Australia. The value of the alleged tax evasion is estimated at $38.5 million and in 2014, the AFP restrained approximately $140 million in assets worldwide as proceeds of crime. On 21 June 2021, charge and summons were issued in the Adelaide Magistrates' Court against the alleged offender for the following offences committed between 1999 and 2013:
    • Two counts of Defraud the Commonwealth contrary to Section 29D of the Crimes Act, 1914; and,
    • Thirteen counts of Obtain Financial Advantage by Deception contrary to Section 134.2 of the Criminal Code, 1995.
    Court proceedings have been adjourned to 28 February 2022.

However, the most significant outcome for the AFP this year was Operation Ironside.

The three-year investigation, which was made public in June this year, has to date charged 55 alleged offenders in Victoria with 168 offences.

Under Operation Ironside in Victoria, 1.1 tonnes of illicit drugs have been seized along with 37 firearms/weapons and almost $20 million suspected to be the proceeds of crime.

The AFP in Southern Command has also played a key role in Aviation Security and Counter Terrorism First Response at Melbourne Airport, and the protection of Commonwealth interests and assets in Victoria and Tasmania. This includes attending 8012 incidents at Melbourne Airport and 91 incidents at Commonwealth and consular establishments during 2021, including protests and demonstrations.

Between Monday 28 June and Sunday 4 July 2021, the AFP conducted a week of action at Melbourne Airport, which included the relaunch of Airport Watch.

An overt AFP proactive operation was conducted each day and included crime prevention and Airport Watch engagement, high visibility patrols by the Protection Operations Response Team and Canine operations.

The week of action resulted in more than 370 public contacts and Airport Watch engagements, extensive vehicle, licence and number plate checks and the discovery of four prohibited weapons.

Note to media:

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Read the AFP Annual Report 2021-22

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

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