Online scams, cybercrime and the theft of personal identity information are now part of organised crime in Australia.
Online scams, cybercrime and the theft of personal identity information are now part of organised crime in Australia.

Organised Crime becoming 'more sophisticated'

AUTHORITIES warn Australian criminal gangs are creeping further into legitimate markets in an effort to mask their illegal activities.

The Australian Crime Commission released its Organised Crime in Australia 2015 report on Wednesday.

ACC chief Chris Dawson said domestic and international gangs were becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they inject themselves into new markets - both legitimate and illegitimate - in order to gain illicit wealth.

"Organised crime exploits the internet and other technologies to target the community through activities such as online scams, cybercrime and the theft of personal identity information stored electronically," he said.

"But the fight against organised crime is no longer just a job for police and law enforcement agencies. To break the business of serious and organised crime, we must recognise and build on the critical role the private sector, industry and the public play in this matter."

The report looked at all aspects of organised crime, from drug dealing and identity theft, to people smuggling and pedophile rings.

It found Australian organised crime in 2015 did not necessarily look like stereotypical "mafia-like brotherhoods" and highly-visible motorcycle gangs of the past.

More and more, crime groups are camouflaging their activities - with fraudulent investment schemes using glossy brochures, seminars and slick websites to create the guise of authentic businesses.

Money illegally generated in Australia is typically put through an international laundering cycle, the report found.

Illegally-gained funds are sent overseas to professional criminal money launderers, who take their cut and bounce the funds between accounts across the world to make tracing their origin difficult.

The ACC established the Eligo National Task Force in 2012 to investigate illegal money markets.

It has so far seized $65.9 million in cash, $925.7 million in drugs and related chemicals, $46 million in illegally-gained assets and resulted in 289 arrests.

The task force has also disrupted 52 separate criminal networks and identified 284 new targets previously unknown to authorities.

It is unfortunately only a drop in the barrel compared to the actual profits made by Australian crime gangs.

"The use of professional facilitators to successfully exploit business structures on behalf of organised crime will remain a key problem, as lawyers, accountants and trust and company service providers are in large part not captured by Australia's Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing regime," it stated.

"As a result, they do not have the same customer due diligence or 'suspicious matter' reporting obligations as financial institutions."

The issue is under consideration as part of the statutory review of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006, which is expected to culminate in a report and recommendations to the Australian Government later this year.

The report found demand for illegal commodities, such as drugs, would continue to dominate organised crime markets over the next two years.

"The demand for methylamphetamine is currently being met by a combination of imported and domestically produced product, suggesting greater involvement by trans-national serious and organised crime groups," it stated.