AFP seizes $470 million from criminals

Editor's note: Radio grabs from National Manager Criminal Assets Confiscation Stefan Jerga available for download.

The AFP has restrained more than $470 million in criminal assets over the past two-and-a-half years, disrupting criminal operations and contributing millions of dollars to Commonwealth programs aimed at keeping Australians safe.

The AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) has seized unlawfully-gained assets in Australia and overseas, including in excess of $266 million in residential and commercial properties, about $175 million in cash and bank accounts, and $29 million in cars, boats, cryptocurrency and luxury items such as watches, jewellery and handbags.

Key CACT outcomes this year include the following operations:

  • In Operation Ironside, in addition to more than 300 people being charged for alleged crimes including drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons offences, the CACT has obtained to date restraining orders over $31 million in criminal wealth. This includes a $6 million cash forfeiture from a single member of a criminal syndicate charged with dealing in the proceeds of crime.
  • Operation Elbrus resulted in the forfeiture of $15.8 million in assets from a principal conspirator in a syndicate alleged to have defrauded the Commonwealth of more than $105 million over three years.
  • Operation Boone resulted in a convicted hacker, who sold stolen Netflix and Spotify subscriptions, being ordered to forfeit $1.66 million in cryptocurrency and cash.
  • Operation Reddig resulted in the forfeiture of about $1.8 million worth of assets from a 36-year-old Queensland man suspected to have benefitted from the proceeds of crime following an investigation into drug, money laundering and fraud offences.

Funds from the sale of forfeited assets are placed into the Confiscated Assets Account, managed by the Australian Financial Security Authority on behalf of the Commonwealth.

The Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews holds the authority to redistribute funds from the Confiscated Assets Account to support crime prevention, diversion programs or other law enforcement initiatives.

Minister Andrews said the AFP's hard work was making it another tough year for criminals, who could only watch on as their criminally acquired assets, properties, cars and cash were seized.

"Seizure of criminals' ill-gotten gains directly funds a range of community and law enforcement projects and initiatives right across Australia, which ultimately make all our communities safer, stronger, and more resilient,'' Minister Andrews said.

"I'm proud to use funds seized from criminals to fund projects that benefit all Australians."

AFP National Manager Criminal Assets Confiscation Stefan Jerga said it was important law enforcement seized ill-gotten wealth from criminals.

"We must attack the business model and profits of organised crime, and we do not want criminals getting out of jail only to live in luxury with illicit funds and assets bought with dirty money,'' Mr Jerga said.

Upon taking leadership of the AFP, Commissioner Reece Kershaw set a target for the CACT to restrain $600 million in criminal assets across the five year period 2019-2024.

"The $470 million seized to date puts the CACT on track to reach this target, though our ambitions to attack the criminal economy, and support our community, extend well beyond this,'' Mr Jerga said.

"Our highly-skilled team, which includes specialist criminal asset investigators, forensic accountants and litigators, will continue to be relentless and use every legal and operational avenue available to seize the ill-gotten wealth of criminals, take the profit out of their crimes and disrupt further investment in their operations.

"The offences linked to the $470 million in restrained assets include money laundering, drug trafficking, cyber-crime, child exploitation and human trafficking, illicit tobacco, tax evasion and various types of fraud.

"While colleagues in the AFP do great work investigating crimes and putting offenders behind bars, we also hit them hard and where it hurts – their wallets, their lavish lifestyles and their profits – to deliver maximum impact on the criminal environment."

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