Australian Federal Police - Platypus Journal/Magazine
1998: The year in review
By Commissioner Mick Palmer
The 1998 calendar year, despite difficulties, has been a very successful and significant year for the AFP and one in which the organisation has quite clearly commenced the next phase of its continuous development.
In the first place, the unequivocally supportive statements by the Prime Minister in February during the opening of the 15th Asian Regional Conference of Interpol in Canberra1 provided both clear evidence of the commitment of the Commonwealth Government to the future role and importance of the AFP and of the recognition that, for the AFP to deliver the outputs required of it by government it had to be "adequately resourced to meet the challenges of the 21st century".
At the same time, the Prime Minister recognised the relevance of our current reform process to the achievement of this end and outlined his government's vision that the AFP become "a law enforcement agency second to none in the world".
Prime Minister John Howard and Interpol President Toshinori Kanemoto exchange gifts at February's Asian Regional Conference of Interpol in Canberra.
In order to allow the Government to make properly based decisions in regard to the AFP's resource needs, it appointed Mr Tony Ayers AC, former Secretary of the Department of Defence, to undertake an independent assessment of our resource needs and to provide a strategic analysis of the emerging challenges facing law enforcement.
Mr Ayers found the AFP had a range of significant strengths including a sophisticated investigative capacity, a good domestic and international reputation, a leading edge reform program and high integrity. But he also found a number of weaknesses, particularly in areas of our financial management, and identified areas in which we could improve the cost efficiency of the business we do.
Following consideration of the Ayers Report by the Government, the Prime Minister announced on July 23, 1998 that the Government would provide additional funding to the AFP of $65.02 million over the next three years as part of a total reform package of some $115 million. For its part, the AFP is required over the same three year period to contribute efficiencies totalling some $50 million in a way that allows the complete reform package to be properly implemented.
To assist the implementation of the reform program, a monitoring committee was established by the Government, chaired by Mr Les Taylor, Chief Solicitor and General Counsel of the Commonwealth Banking Group and comprising Mr Will Lawrie of Price Waterhouse Coopers together with representatives of the Department of Finance and Administration, the Attorney-General's Department and the AFP.
The key elements of the reform program endorsed by Government are:
• Recruiting additional staff and enhancing investigative and operational capabilities.
• Restructuring the AFP's employment base to develop a more mobile, flexible and skilled workforce.
• Identifying and achieving internal efficiencies.
• Establishing a commercial support program.
• Improving strategic intelligence capability.
• A possible restructuring along functional rather than geographic lines.
• Developing a formal budget charter which will define the AFP's outcomes and outputs based on its stated priorities.
As part of this process, I am moving to appoint a management specialist at deputy commissioner level.
This process is well in hand and I envisage interviews will be held before Christmas.
The monitoring committee has now met three times and has considered a range of comprehensive submissions prepared by the AFP in consultation with representatives of the Department of Finance and Administration and the Attorney-General's Department.
At its meeting on October 7, the committee unanimously supported submissions put to it and (as authorised by the Government) recommended to the Minister for Justice and Customs and the Minister for Finance and Administration the initial release of $27.4 million as the 1998-99 component of the total Government commitment of $65.02 million.
Ministers have subsequently approved the release of these funds.
Clearly of course, such commitments come with properly high expectations of performance and accountability and unquestionably there will be some real challenges for us as we restructure, refocus and reskill our organisation to prepare to meet our mandate.
But on all counts, the opportunities for our people, particularly the younger ones, have never been better or more potentially exciting.
Additionally, we have implemented a range of human resource initiatives which will fundamentally alter for all time the remuneration and rewards environment, create new opportunities for progression within the organisation against demonstrated relevant performance and a range of new incentives and opportunities for work responsibility and experience, mobility and continual skilling.
These initiatives were supported by a range of corporate reforms and information technology improvements which I will touch on a little later. First and foremost, however, we are an operational organisation and our relevance and effectiveness will, at the end of the day, be judged by the quality of the core business which we conduct.
As an indicator of our success in this area I have included a snapshot of significant operational achievements which serve to illustrate the diversity, frequent complexity and the economic and social importance of so many of the investigations in which we are involved.
As I mentioned earlier, during 1998 the AFP has consolidated and built on its ongoing program of reform through the introduction and implementation of a range of initiatives including:
• The establishment on July 1 of three career streams — Federal Operations, Community Operations and Close Operational Support — and competencies specific to these streams;
• Preliminary reprofiling of the AFP's skills base to ensure that the AFP has the skills necessary to meet existing and emerging Government requirements.
• A new remuneration and rewards environment (including a new 22 grade salary structure, in-situ progression and performance pay, and the trialing of extra duties and deployment allowances).
• Rigorous competency assessments of members to ensure that streamlined learning and development programs are put in place.
• Civilianisation of a number of areas traditionally staffed by sworn members to enable their redeployment to higher priority operational activities.
• An integrated human resource and financial management information system (SAP R/3) which took effect on July 1 and a new national operations management system (PROMIS — see below).
• A three-tiered corporate planning system which provides the framework for the development of outcome and output measures for each of the AFP's corporate priorities, and which will enable the AFP to measure, monitor and report on its performance.
• A new corporate management information reporting regime to the National Management Team which focuses initially on financial, human resources and operational data.
• A new financial management regime, including full devolution of responsibility and accountability for resource management and outcomes (and including devolution of salaries and Fringe Benefits Tax) and the re-engineering of financial business practices to ensure they conform with best practice.
• A first draft of a four-year, accrual-based budget to output class level, and a full outcomes and outputs statement.
As part of the AFP's improvements to its IT systems under Project SPEAR (Single Point of Entry and Retrieval), the AFP has developed and introduced a new information management system, PROMIS (Police Realtime On-line Management Information System).
PROMIS provides a single, consistent system for documenting the progress of investigations, information collection and its subsequent retrieval. It also provides an improved capacity to nationally manage operations and facilitates consistency in the way in which operations are undertaken across the whole organisation. The system links information which previously was held in separate AFP databases and will not be plagued with the Y2K bug (the millennium bug).
Trialed in Eastern and Northern Regions at the beginning of 1997, the system was introduced progressively in all national regions in the early part of the year.
ACT Region will be brought on-line towards the end of this year when PROMIS will be interfaced with a computer-aided dispatch system.
The system's success can already be seen in the improved coordination and cooperation between regions on operational taskings. PROMIS will provide the AFP with:
• A significant improvement in the ability to enter and manipulate information gathered during an operation.
• Enhanced data searching.
• The potential to improve significantly the interaction and coordination between operations.
• A clearer view of all operational activity to enable assessment against organisational goals.
• The ability to meet the Government's need for information about the AFP's activities.
In March, Prime Minister John Howard announced the second stage of the Tough on Drugs Strategy and the AFP received an additional $11.816 million.
This funding, to be introduced over a four year period, provided for Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth to each establish a mobile strike team in addition to the three already set up in Sydney with the first round of funding. This budget increase created a further 32 federal agent positions, and brings to 86 the number of positions created under ‘Tough on Drugs' funding.
Other aspects of the announcement affecting the AFP included $5.978 million for new AFP liaison posts in key transit countries in the East Asian region, and assisting the AFP's international efforts was the provision of $5.602 million for joint programs within the Asia-Pacific region. These initiatives have significantly enhanced the AFP's capacity to proactively target the higher order criminality involved in drug trafficking.
In addition, the Government has announced that it will be contributing up to $50 million over three years for the establishment of CrimTrac — a national crime information system which will allow police services in each State and Territory to pool information to solve crime and apprehend criminals, including developing a national database with DNA matching, and $23.4 million over four years for the establishment of four new AFP strike teams which will be tasked to focus on money trails and the economic dimensions of organised criminal activity as well as on drug trafficking per se.
As with the previous teams, these teams will have the capacity to be mobile, and will be based in a variety of locations around Australia.
On October 14, the AFP, Customs and NSW Police made Australia's largest heroin seizure involving 390kg. Eighteen people were remanded in custody on a range of drug-related offences. The seizure dwarfs the previous record of 123.4kg and is nearly three times that seized for the whole of 1997. As importantly, Operation Linnet disrupted an organised criminal syndicate with international connections.
Operation Stockman, a joint AFP-Customs operation, resulted in the seizure of 91kg of heroin in July 1998 from a shipping container from China. This represents around three million deals which will not now reach Australian streets.
On October 21, 1998, following the detection by Customs officials of a quantity of ecstasy tablets concealed in a wooden crate marked ‘water pumps,' the AFP arrested two men in Sydney and seized approximately 17 kg of ecstasy (70,000 tablets). The two men appeared in court on October 22, 1998.
In March 1998, four people who arrived at Perth International Airport from Amsterdam via Kuala Lumpur, were found to be wearing body packs containing a total of 25,294 ecstasy tablets. One person was sentenced to nine years jail with a non-parole period of four years, a second sentenced to four-and-a-half years, with a 30-month non-parole period, and a further two people have been charged and are now before the court.
Operation Molotov/Calculus was the Australian phase of a worldwide operation which targeted what has been described as the world's largest hashish trafficking organisation, alleged to have been in operation since the early 1980s. The operations involved ACS and more than 150 AFP officers, assisted by the Queensland Police Service, and culminated in the seizure of eight tonnes of cannabis resin, a yacht, several other boats and motor vehicles near Maroochydore on the Queensland coast.
Of the 18 people arrested as part of the Australian phase, 17 were convicted, with collective sentences of 150 years and a 66-year non-parole period.
A joint investigation by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the AFP resulted in the sentencing in 1998 of an accountant to six years jail with a three-year non-parole period. The accountant was charged with 22 counts of tax fraud involving false claims of more than $500,000 and faces a pecuniary penalty order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1987 of more than $600,000.
Another joint AFP-ATO investigation into an alleged $4.2 million tax fraud using ‘phoenix' companies resulted in the arrest of the alleged principal and the seizure of his assets, which included a $500,000 cruiser, a $1.6 million Sydney mansion, a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, a Mercedes, and Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Operation Flange was a joint ATO, National Crime Authority, AUSTRAC and AFP investigation into allegations that more than $48 million had been laundered and transferred overseas to avoid taxation payments in Australia. To date, five people have been arrested and assets with an estimated value of $1.131 million restrained. The ATO has raised assessments of $6 million.
A man arrested by federal agents in Sydney with failing to declare excess currency, and later charged with possession of a false passport, goods in custody, assaulting police, and attempting to escape lawful custody, was identified as Italy's most wanted criminal, Giovani Farina. He was wanted in Brescia, Italy, over the kidnapping of an Italian businessman who was held to ransom for $A5.1 million. Farina was also wanted for firearms offences. He had entered Australia on a false passport and was initially apprehended when he was discovered with the equivalent of $A138,000 in his luggage which he had failed to declare.
Following alert examination by federal agents involved, inquiries were made with the Guardia de Finanza in Italy concerning the legitimacy of his passport. As a result, advice was quickly received from Italy that the passport had been lost or stolen several years previously and that the legitimate owner of the passport was presently in Italy.
When two Eastern Region officers attempted to arrest Farina in regard to passport offences following a court appearance on the currency charge, he assaulted them in a failed bid to escape. A day or so later, Italian officials identified him from fingerprints as their most wanted man. He is currently in jail awaiting extradition to Italy.
In another case, a Canadian man was found to have $159,800 in his luggage when attempting to leave Sydney. A judge ordered that the money be confiscated and fined him $3000. A separate case involved excess currency of $A241,000, Yen 600,000 and $US11,552, which, after a court appearance, was also confiscated.
Two Malaysian men were found by Customs officers to be carrying 199 blank credit cards, which were not embossed nor were their magnetic strips encoded with cardholder account details. An agency representing the credit card owners claimed that an average of $10,000 is usually spent on each fake card of this type. The men were charged with importing a forged trademark in September.
A recent AFP investigation led to a conviction, and what is believed to be the first jail sentence in Australia, for computer hacking. A man who broke into the computer system of Internet Service Provider AUSNet causing actual and potential commercial harm, was sentenced to three years jail, with a non-parole period of 18 months.
Following one of the largest hauls of its type in Australia, more than 5000 pirated video cassettes, laser and compact disks were destroyed in August after the AFP raided a Cabramatta shop late in 1997. The retailer was successfully prosecuted for copyright and related offences.
A former senior computer programmer was sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment on 10 charges of altering data in computers and one charge of obtaining property by deception. The man altered information in a company's sales inventory database, allowing him to receive monetary credits to his phone accounts, as well as telecommunications equipment which was not invoiced.
The value of the Interpol network was illustrated in two recent cases involving international fugitives. I mentioned earlier the case of Giovani Farina, Italy's most wanted fugitive who was arrested in Sydney travelling on a false passport and whose true identity was subsequently established through Interpol. Not long after the Farina arrest, Mexico's most wanted fugitive was arrested in Melbourne.
The man, Carlos Cabal Peniche, was wanted in Mexico on offences relating to an alleged US$600 million fraud. In both cases, the quality of Interpol information and the speed of response to Interpol-generated inquiries were critical to the success of the operation.
AFP agents worked closely with Mexican Federal Judicial Police officers and members of the FBI who raised the possibility that Peniche may be in Australia. Peniche had been wanted by Mexican authorities since 1994 for violating the laws governing financial institutions. Australian authorities are currently liaising with Mexican law enforcement agencies who will be seeking to have Peniche extradited from Australia to face charges in Mexico.
Another example of the work of Interpol was Operation Cathedral, an international investigation which targeted a paedophile ring operating on the Internet. In the first operation of its kind anywhere in the world, the AFP became involved in the investigation instigated by the National Crime Squad in the United Kingdom earlier this year.
The operation, which involved 14 countries including Australia, was coordinated by the UK authorities and culminated in the simultaneous execution of warrants on September 2. Information was passed to the AFP via the National Central Bureau of Interpol in Canberra which was then disseminated to the relevant State police services. As a result, one man was arrested by the Western Australia police and a substantial amount of computer equipment and documents were seized in WA and NSW.
Hundreds of arrests were made around the world and more than 100,000 indecent images of children were seized.
A commitment to such operational cooperation was demonstrated earlier in the year when the AFP hosted Interpol's 15th Asian Regional Conference in Canberra in February. Meeting under the theme Asian Regional Effectiveness — Appreciating Diversity, Advancing Cooperation, delegates from 34 countries attended.
In addition, an Australian delegation attended the Interpol General Assembly in Cairo in October. The delegation comprised Chief Commissioner Comrie, Victoria Police, Commissioner Falconer of the Western Australia Police and myself.
A number of significant issues were discussed in which Australia was able to play an important role, including the agreement to further progress and develop internationally agreed Automated Fingerprint Identification Standard and DNA standards and processes, and the development and acceptance of Interpol's first Strategic Development Plan.
Australian police have been part of the United Nations Force in Cyprus since its establishment in 1964 in an effort to bring an end to hostilities. The AFP provides 20 personnel on rotation, with its continued involvement being assessed on the renewal of each six month mandate. Two contingents were assigned to Cyprus during this year.
In September, four federal agents joined 22 Australian representatives as part of a UN managed Joint International Observer group to assess the democratic merits of the recent Cambodian elections.
The AFP now has three personnel seconded to the War Crimes Commission in the Hague. These agents are gaining valuable investigative experience in an international environment working on cases involving serious violations of international humanitarian law such as genocide, crimes against humanity, breaches of the laws and customs of war and violations of the Geneva Convention.
The AFP has been involved in the Truce Monitoring Group (and its successor, the Peace Monitoring Group) since November 1997. Two police monitors are deployed on an eight-week rotational basis, with other monitors drawn from the defence forces, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), AusAID, and military members from other contributing countries.
Positive statements of support and recognition of the role and performance of AFP personnel in each of our overseas theatres have been received from political, diplomatic and other international quarters.
Each year, a number of Australian citizens are reported missing in overseas countries. The AFP provides investigative support and police liaison to the consular operations area of DFAT, which has primary responsibility for coordinating searches for these people.
A joint initiative was launched in May 1998 to provide better service to those who report people missing overseas.
In two separate incidents, Indonesian fishermen were charged with bringing non-citizens into Australia. The fishermen were convicted, sentenced to four months imprisonment, and their vessels forfeited. The second incident also resulted in the confiscation of Indonesian currency under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The investigation into the murder of Canberra woman Ulrike Conway resulted in the prosecution of former AFP officer John Conway and Kathy McFie. Both received substantial jail sentences in the ACT Supreme Court: Conway received 24 years with a non-parole period of 18 years and McFie received 20 years with a non-parole period of 12 years. Appeals have been lodged on the sentences.
The difficulties of conducting a murder investigation when a serving member is a suspect are obvious and the probity and success of the investigation illustrates the professionalism and integrity of the team involved.
The newly created position of Director, Specialist Operations, Eastern Region has been taken up by Federal Agent Steve Jackson who oversees the AFP's operational response to the demands of the Olympic Games.
Significant emphasis is being placed on the role of Olympic coordinators within the AFP to ensure a smooth run up to the Games. To this end, regular coordinators' conferences will be held between now and 2000.
Federal Agent Jackson will report directly to the National Operations Team and his responsibilities will include overall coordination and monitoring expenditure for the approved Olympic budget — although financial management responsibility will remain devolved to individual general managers — and the maximisation of efficient and cost effective deployment of AFP resources nationally to meet the demands of the Games.
Next year will see the continued implementation of the AFP reform program.
As I mentioned earlier, following the unanimous recommendation by the monitoring committee, the Minister for Justice and Customs and the Minister for Finance and Administration has approved the release of $27.4 million to the AFP during 1998/99.
The money is to be used for the following purposes:
• Recruitment of additional staff to maintain operational capacity — $9.8 million.
• Learning and development — $4.3 million.
• Upgrade of critical equipment, firing range and forensic upgrade — $6.7 million.
• Reprofiling/restructuring of the AFP's employment base — $3.3 million.
• Allocation of additional liquidity funding — $3.3 million.
The funding will be used to increase current staffing levels from around 2600 to nearer 2800, thereby increasing the AFP's front line operational effectiveness. Funds will also be directed to:
• The introduction of a professional salaries structure for police involved in national operations.
• Improvements in the AFP's electronic surveillance.
• Operational surveillance capabilities (including improved communications).
• Enhanced training, particularly in financial management and management of investigations, as well as training in specialist skills in information technology and forensic accounting.
To assess the implementation of the National Teams Model across the AFP, a series of criteria will be applied across the organisation by Human Resource Teams in each region. This is an important step in ensuring consistent application of Competency and Jobsizing across the AFP.
The general managers under Deputy Commissioner Whiddett have been tasked with analysing best practice applications of the National Teams Model with a view to introducing such practices nationally.
Towards the middle of the year, a joint ACT and Commonwealth Government review of ACT policing services began. The review was conducted to provide the AFP with stakeholders' opinions on the ‘way ahead' for what is a unique Australian jurisdiction, which benefits from the advantages of a ‘seamless' policing approach.
The current policing arrangements have been in place since July 25, 1990, and correspondence between respective ACT and Commonwealth Ministers, and the Chief Minister and Prime Minister endorsed a renegotiation of the existing arrangement.
The review is being overseen by a steering committee, managed by a working group and supported by a short-term consultancy. The AFP was represented on both the steering committee and the working group.
I have endeavoured to provide readers with a feel for the issues we faced during 1998. This has been a landmark year consolidating the gains made under the ongoing AFP reform program, and for the first time in many years we have significant additional resources, in the order of $50 million, in our fight against organised crime.
Our challenge is to embrace the opportunities provided by this additional funding and to deliver the outcomes expected of us by Government in an operationally effective and cost efficient way.
Finally, I wish the readers of Platypus a safe and happy Christmas. To you and all our law enforcement partners, thank you for your support. However it is ultimately the people of the AFP whose efforts have, and will, make this organisation, in the words of the Prime Minister, second to none. To these people, sworn and unsworn, I say an extra special thank you.
1 For the full text of the Prime Minister's address go to Speeches on the AFP website at www.afp.gov.au.
2 Details of AFP operations over several years can be found at Operations Online on the AFP website at www.afp.gov.au.