Key Priorities Of The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission For 2023

The role of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) is a federal statutory body established pursuant to the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 (Cth) (Act), tasked with protecting Australia from serious criminal threats.  It does this by collecting and analysing criminal intelligence information and acting as a conduit where it shares that information between federal, state, and territory law enforcement agencies. The board of ACIC includes Commissioners for the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Border Force (ABF), the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), each state-based police force in Australia, and the Chairperson of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. The ACIC works with its national and international partners to conduct investigations, collect intelligence, and provide advice to combat serious and organised crime, cybercrime, and national security threats. The Act confers on the ACIC coercive powers for the purpose of conducting intelligence operations and investigations.

Key Priorities for 2023

The ACIC has identified financial crime as a priority theme for 2023 with a focus on money laundering activities. Recent investigations conducted by the commission revealed that billions of dollars are being laundered throughout Australia each year. In response, the ACIC and the ATO have implemented the serious financial crime taskforce which facilitates the coordinated identification of, and response to, financially motivated criminal activity.

The ACIC also participate in other taskforces and alliances with a view to enhancing the integrity of the financial system in Australia, including:

  • the Avarus Taskforce;
  • the Phoenix Taskforce;
  • the Black Economy Standing Taskforce, led by the ATO; and
  • the Fintel Alliance, led by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

In March 2023, ‘Taskforce Avarus’ was launched by the AFP in conjunction with ACIC, AUSTRAC and ABF. The aim of the task force is to utilise the specialised functions of these four government agencies to combat complex, large scale, and systemic money laundering operations. The taskforce is also pursuing cooperation from overseas law enforcement agencies as well as private entities such as financial institutions to assist with the surveillance of money laundering activities.

Money laundering offences are dealt with in Part 10.2 (Division 400) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (Code). The definition of money laundering is broader than many may expect.  A person commits a money laundering offence under the Act if they deal with money or other property and either:

  • the money or property is and the person believe it to be, proceeds of indictable crime; or
  • the person intends that the money or property will become an instrument of crime.

To ‘deal with money or other property’ for the purpose of the Act can include where a person:

  • receives, possesses, conceals or disposes of money or other property;
  • imports money or other property into Australia;
  • exports money or other property from Australia; or
  • engages in a banking transaction relating to money or other property.

The ACIC has unique coercive powers to summon people to attend hearings to be examined and produce documents. This includes the power to compel individuals to answer questions at these hearings. The ACIC’s coercive examination program is supported and informed by intelligence operations including technical intelligence, human intelligence and data analytics capabilities. The intelligence gathering tools available to the ACIC include telecommunications intercepts, surveillance and controlled operations to uncover financial crime.

Lavan Comment

Financial crime is a key focus for the ACIC in 2023. If you are served with a Summons by the ACIC, it is essential that you understand your rights and obligations in respect to compliance with the terms of the same. If you are served with a summons, you will likely be subject to strict confidentiality obligations and only able to inform your lawyer of the existence of the summons.

If you require advice in respect of an ACIC investigation, contact partner, Cinzia Donald, who heads Lavan’s Corporate Crime & Investigations and Corporate Disputes teams.

Disclaimer – the information contained in this publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should seek legal advice in relation to any particular matter you may have before relying or acting on this information. The Lavan team are here to assist.