Man charged with impersonating Commonwealth official as search warrants executed in three states

UPDATE: Audio from this media conference can be downloaded from Hightail.

A Perth man was charged with impersonating a Commonwealth public official and six search warrants were executed across three states on Saturday as part of a Queensland Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) investigation into a group of people allegedly impersonating government officials and holding anti-government sentiment.

The Queensland JCTT executed search warrants in Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville, while additional search warrants were executed in Peterborough (SA) and two locations in Perth (including the suburb of Tuart Hill) by the Joint Counter Terrorism Teams in those states. The purpose of these warrants was to disrupt the group’s activities, and collect evidence which may indicate criminal actions.

Queensland JCTT investigators have not found an impending threat to community safety, and have yet to find any evidence the group had the ability to carry out acts they had discussed.

A 49-year-old man from Tuart Hill is scheduled to appear in Perth Magistrates Court on Monday, 16 August 2021. Police will allege he claimed to be an AFP official during an unsuccessful attempt to obtain stamps and ID badges bearing the official Australian Federal Police (AFP) logo from a commercial business. Further enquiries are continuing into this man’s activities.

Police will allege members of the group are responsible for a video that is circulating through social media channels that falsely claims to be a recording of the AFP Commissioner detailing anti-government sentiment and encouraging others to join. The man speaking in this video is not AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw.

JCTT enquiries identified the man speaking in this recording, and found him to be part of a group of like-minded people across Australia who regularly met online and discussed their shared interest in taking over the Federal Government, including the creation of ‘arrest warrants’ for a number of high-profile politicians and public servants.

Investigators were last week made aware of a shipment of three boxes of replica AFP badges that were consigned to a house in Cairns where a member of the group lived. These three boxes were found dumped in a local creek and recovered by the Queensland Police Service. A total of 470 badges were recovered by police before the execution of search warrants, and enquiries are continuing to ensure the entire shipment of badges has been recovered.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Counter Terrorism Scott Lee said it was concerning a group of people had arranged the manufacture of AFP replica badges and creation of a false video online.

“We have found no evidence this group has the ability – or has actually attempted – to carry out specific violent acts in support of statements made by members of this group. The Queensland JCTT acted early in this instance to stop any potential disturbing activities at the earliest possible stage, and we will not hesitate to lay further charges if more criminal offences are identified,” he said.

“The general public needs to know that a video purporting to be of the AFP Commissioner calling for people to join in a plan to create a new government is complete and utter nonsense – it is not from the Commissioner, it is not from the AFP and has absolutely no credibility. We continue to investigate those we believe are responsible for creating it.”

Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz, Security and Counter Terrorism Command, urged members of the public with any information relevant to this matters to come forward.

“The Queensland Police Service values the ongoing relationships it has fostered with the Australian Federal Police and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation as part of the JCTT to keep Queensland safe,” she said.

“These types of activities can easily escalate, and we urge members of the community to contact Crime Stoppers or the National Security Hotline with any information of concern.”

The man from Tuart Hill has been charged with one count of impersonation of Commonwealth public officials, contrary to section 148.1 (2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is two years imprisonment.

The Queensland JCTT is comprised of members of the Australian Federal Police, Queensland Police Service and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Anyone with information about extremist activity or possible threats to the community should come forward, no matter how small or insignificant you may think the information may be. The National Security Hotline is 1800 123 400.

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