A Perth man has been charged with impersonating a commonwealth public official and 470 fake police badges have been recovered following an investigation led by the Queensland Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT).
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) on Monday revealed that the JCTT has been investigating a group of people who allegedly impersonated government officials and held anti-government sentiment.
The group is allegedly behind a fake viral video impersonating AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw. The video falsely depicts Kershaw ‘detailing anti-government sentiment and encouraging others to join’, police said.
“JCTT enquiries identified the man speaking in this recording, and found him to be part of a group of like-minded people across Australia who regularly met online and discussed their shared interest in taking over the federal government, including the creation of ‘arrest warrants’ for a number of high-profile politicians and public servants,” the AFP said.
While investigators do not believe the group presents a threat to community safety, they have voiced concern over their activities.
“We have found no evidence this group has the ability – or has actually attempted – to carry out specific violent acts in support of statements made by members of this group. The Queensland JCTT acted early in this instance to stop any potential disturbing activities at the earliest possible stage, and we will not hesitate to lay further charges if more criminal offences are identified,” AFP assistant commissioner counter terrorism Scott Lee said.
“The general public needs to know that a video purporting to be of the AFP commissioner calling for people to join in a plan to create a new government is complete and utter nonsense – it is not from the commissioner, it is not from the AFP and has absolutely no credibility. We continue to investigate those we believe are responsible for creating it.”
A 49-year-old man from Tuart Hill has been charged with one count of impersonation of commonwealth public officials — an offence that faces a maximum of two years imprisonment.
The man will appear in Perth Magistrates Court on August 16. Police will allege he claimed to be an AFP official during an unsuccessful attempt to obtain stamps and ID badges bearing the official AFP logo from a commercial business.
The AFP noted that investigators were made aware of a shipment of three boxes of fake AFP badges last week. The boxes were consigned to a house in Cairns where a member of the group lived, and were found dumped in a local creek. A total of 470 badges were recovered by and recovered by Queensland Police before search warrants were executed.
Six search warrants were executed in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, Peterborough, and Perth on Saturday, as part of the investigation.
With investigations ongoing, Queensland Police assistant commissioner Debbie Platz has urged members of the public with any relevant information to come forward.
“The Queensland Police Service values the ongoing relationships it has fostered with the Australian Federal Police and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation as part of the JCTT to keep Queensland safe,” she said.
“These types of activities can easily escalate, and we urge members of the community to contact Crime Stoppers or the National Security Hotline with any information of concern.”
Anyone with information about extremist activity or possible threats to the community have been reminded to call the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400.