A joint agency taskforce led by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Border Force will be expanded to further “crack down” on organised crime syndicates at the national border, according to Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton.
Dutton on Monday announced that staff from his department, as well as the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), would join Operation Centinel to “bust these criminal networks” and prosecute them.
“These criminal networks are targeting some of our most vulnerable, including children, so we are resolute in our efforts to stamp out this crime type and this taskforce is sending a very clear message that criminal enterprises are not welcome here in Australia,” he said.
“By now making this a portfolio-wide effort, we can expand our operations even further to make sure we can identify, target and disrupt these supply chains offshore and at the border.”
The taskforce has sworn in a number of ABF officers as AFP Special Members, who have AFP powers including using search warrants to investigate migration, visa, trade, citizenship and customs offences, Dutton said.
“This initiative will contribute to the portfolio’s endeavour to deepen collaboration and further build interagency partnerships.”
Operation Centinel was established in early 2020 to strengthen Australia’s sea and aviation supply chains in a bid to fight organised criminal operations, including drug trafficking, according to the minister.
He said the expanded version of the group would be able to use “disruption tactics” including investigations and prosecution, “enhanced compliance activity”, legislative and policy reform, offshore disruption, and industry engagement to address criminality and regulatory issues.
Dutton said the taskforce has access to the “full force of commonwealth powers”, and would collaborate with state and territory police through existing arrangements.