Most of Australia's serious crime is being run from other countries

File photo. Australian Federal Police guard crystal methamphetamine and heroin after smashing a Hong Kong-based international drugs syndicate in Sydney. Torsten Blackwood/AFP/GettyImages

Serious crime in Australia is increasingly being directed from offshore, according to Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin.

Federal police estimate that about 70% of serious criminal threats have an international dimension, Colvin told the National Press Club today.

The federal police have built an extensive international liaison network as a cornerstone of the organisation.

“Put simply, our efforts to cripple organised crime would be futile without it,” says Colvin.

“Our work with partner agencies in these locations is crucial in disrupting crime before it can even reach our shores.”

He gave the example of the eight tonnes of drugs seized in a joint operation with the Chinese National Narcotics Control Commission.

The majority was stopped in mainland China and didn’t even made it to its intended destination, Australia.

“This type of disruption is becoming a commonplace strategy for us and is just not possible without the very strong relationships that we build and maintain internationally,” he says.

He says these criminals are not simply drug traffickers but are also money launderers and identity thieves who undermine Australia’s borders.

“They are organised crime, and frankly, they present problems for all aspects of society,” he says.

The aim is often disruption of organised criminal syndicates, and terrorist networks, and not always just prosecution.

“And although this is proving to be a very effective strategy in mitigating the risk of criminal intent to our communities, it is an action which can be hard to measure in terms of reporting, and a difficult space in which to share the news of our success,” he says.

And some investigations run for years.

The average tenure of a single foreign bribery investigation is seven-and-a-half years.

At the end of April, the federal police had 37 foreign bribery matters under investigation.

“Criminals are getting smarter,” he says. “Rapid changes in technology test our expertise and our ability to counter new crime types every day.”

A recent counter terrorism investigation seized of 8.6 terabytes of data — 122 million files or 2.3 billion pages of paper — on suspect devices.

“The data analysis and digital forensics requirements are enormous, and that is just one investigation,” he says.

“The task is immense but so is the risk — that is why we need to embrace technology as our friend and as an enabler, not just as a barrier or challenge.”

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