Thursday, 26 May 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: alleged corruption in Border Force ranks

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
17 May 2015

The Age, 19 May 2016:

A network of Australian border security officials is allegedly working for organised criminals, including drug and tobacco smugglers, in the most serious corruption scandal to ever hit the nation's border agencies.

A Fairfax Media investigation has uncovered multiple cases of alleged corruption involving staff from the Australian Border Force and the Department of Agriculture, along with maritime industry employees with government clearances…..

The allegations come as the government makes a virtue of its strength on border security, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claiming the opposition "lack the commitment to keep our borders secure".

However, the federal government and customs chiefs, including the nation's top border security official, Michael Pezzullo, have been repeatedly warned over four years in high-level confidential briefings about significant suspected corruption in the Border Force's ranks, especially in NSW.

Evidence, including NSW police briefing notes and testimony from crime figures, suggests that one of the most vital border security facilities, the NSW Customs Examination Facility, has been compromised by corrupt insiders, enabling criminals to import large amounts of drugs and tobacco undetected. Staff at the facility are responsible for searching containers suspected to contain contraband.

A small network of Department of Agriculture officials responsible for clearing imports into Australia have also been assisting and liaising with known drug traffickers for at least the past five years…..

Fairfax Media has delayed reporting on the border corruption scandal for several months at the request of authorities.

In NSW, evidence uncovered by Fairfax Media from multiple sources, including agency officials, government briefing files and figures with underworld ties, implicates Border Force officials in drug and tobacco trafficking, and leaking to the criminal underworld.

Criminal intelligence suggests one officer has been taking kickbacks of hundreds of thousands of dollars from traffickers, while another has been facilitating importations.

Suspected corrupt officers are still operating.

The latest scandal comes three years after a network of corrupt customs officers was identified at Sydney airport and charged by the federal police. At the time, Mr Pezzullo promised sweeping reforms, including many which have been implemented.

Top security and policing officials, along with corruption experts, called for the nation's federal police watchdog, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) to have its budget dramatically increased and said the Australian Border Force had failed to deal with corruption in its ranks.

Leading corruption expert and former senior judge Stephen Charles, QC, said ACLEI – which, with about 20 investigators out of a total of 55 staff, is among the smallest corruption fighting agencies in Australia – was badly outgunned. Mr Charles said Australia needed an anti-corruption agency with hundreds of staff……
One senior government source said the Australian Border Force was "incapable" of eradicating corruption in its ranks and sometimes dealt with internal integrity issues with departmental sanctions, such as demotion or sacking, rather than by conducting intensive probes that could expose corrupt networks

Read the full article here.

* Photograph found at The Sydney Morning Herald

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