Editor’s Note: Images of items seized by AFP and radio captures of National Criminal Assets Forfeiture Manager Stefan Jerga are available via Hightail.
The AFP has dealt a significant blow to organized crime by curtailing more than $600 million in criminal assets in three years, ahead of the five-year target set by Commissioner Reece Kershaw.
Since the target was set in February 2020, the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Working Group (CACT) has restricted:
$380 million in residential and commercial properties; $200 million in cash and bank accounts, and $35 million in cars, boats, planes, cryptocurrency, artwork, and other luxury items.
Last month (August), the CACT restricted three NSW properties, 47 vehicles, including 31 classic cars, and around $676,000 worth of gold and silver bullion.
AFP alleges the assets are linked to a 46-year-old Sydney man who was sentenced earlier this year to 11 years in prison for importing 144kg of cocaine into Sydney in October 2020.
In February 2020, Commissioner Kershaw made criminal asset forfeiture a key priority for the AFP by establishing the Criminal Assets Forfeiture Command and having it report directly to him.
Commissioner Kershaw set a goal of restricting $600 million by the end of fiscal year 2024.
AFP Deputy Commissioner of Investigations Ian McCartney said the criminals were motivated by profit and greed and the AFP had zero tolerance for criminals enjoying lavish lifestyles at the expense of law-abiding Australians.
“Going after the proceeds of crime is a key strategy used by the AFP to disrupt organized crime,” said Deputy Commissioner McCartney.
“Today’s criminal environment is highly complex and requires a swift and far-reaching response from law enforcement.
This strategy, which is generating maximum impact in the criminal environment, is despised by organized crime.
“Some serious criminals have told AFP investigators that they could bear to go to jail, but were upset that their homes, cars and wealth would be gone when they were released.”
“Backed by powerful legislation, CACT remains a world-leading model for criminal asset forfeiture, with teams located across the country.”
CACT brings together the collective resources and expertise of law enforcement officers, litigators, financial investigators, forensic accountants, and specialists from partner agencies.
The permanent working group has been running for 10 years. It was launched by the Commonwealth Government in 2011, and was established permanently the following year, to combat the significant threat of serious organized crime, including by improving the identification and prosecution of criminal assets.
Crimes linked to CACT seizures include money laundering, drug and firearms trafficking, cybercrime, child exploitation and human servitude, illicit tobacco, tax evasion, and various types of fraud, including fraud against government measures that support to the Australian community, such as National Disability. Insurance scheme.
Commonwealth proceeds of crime laws allow CACT to restrain both proceeds and instrumentalities of crime based on a civil standard of proof, as well as obtain a financial penalty and unexplained wealth warrants, regardless of whether there is a related criminal prosecution or investigation.
Significantly, the Commonwealth’s proceeds of crime laws also give the CACT strong powers of intelligence gathering and enforcement, and the ability to restrain the assets of criminal groups without their prior knowledge.
AFP National Criminal Assets Forfeiture Manager Stefan Jerga said the AFP and its partners continued to focus on criminal wealth and were achieving outstanding results as leaders of the Commonwealth’s criminal asset forfeiture capacity.
“With a broad global reach and long-standing international partnerships, the AFP is uniquely positioned to bring together law enforcement efforts in this space, having successfully restricted more than $200 million from overseas locations since 2012.” said Mr. Jerga.
“While our AFP colleagues continue to do a great job investigating crimes and putting criminals in jail, CACT will continue to hit where it hurts most: their wallets, their lavish lifestyles and their earnings.”
“Our highly skilled investigators will continue to be relentless and use every available legal and operational avenue to seize illicit wealth from criminals, profit from their crimes, and disrupt future investment in their illegal operations.
“In addition to disrupting and damaging the criminal environment, we are proud to see the proceeds of crime seized by CACT being redistributed into measures that ultimately make our communities safer and stronger.”
While the CACT fights in court, the restricted assets are managed on behalf of the Commonwealth by the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA). When criminal assets are successfully seized, they are liquidated by AFSA and the proceeds are deposited into the Commonwealth’s Forfeited Assets Account (CAA).
CAA funds are redistributed by the Attorney General in measures related to crime prevention and law enforcement, including those dealing with child protection and child safety online, drug harm reduction, communities safer and a national DNA program for unidentified and missing persons.
Led by the AFP, the CACT brings together the resources and expertise of the AFP, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Revenue Office, AUSTRAC and the Australian Border Force. Together, these agencies track, restrain, and ultimately seize criminal assets.
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