Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare Kari Bourne

Organised crime has major impact on Aussies, economy

ORGANISED crime is stripping at least $15 billion from the Australian economy each year, a report released on Tuesday revealed.

The Australian Crime Commission, which compiled Organised Crime in Australia 2013, found most of the criminals targeting Australians were based overseas.

It was also revealed criminals were turning to social media in a bid to compromise key public officials, namely police and border protection officers, and gain a foothold in Australia.

At the report's launch in Brisbane, ACC CEO John Lawler said organised crime had "very real impacts for everyday Australians".

Increased pressure on the health system caused by drug addiction, creating an unlevel playing field for legitimate businesses, tax avoidance, manipulating the stock market and people becoming reliant on welfare after losing their life savings to fraud were just some of the ways organised crime affected Australians, Mr Lawler said.

"We've lost billions of dollars to foreign jurisdictions. That's billions of dollars that should have remained in the Australian economy supporting businesses, supporting employment and ... growth for our country," Mr Lawler said.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare described the report as "sobering".

He said Australia's strong economy and prosperity made it an obvious target for criminals.

The report showed organised crime was more powerful than ever, he said, aided largely by technology.

Mr Clare said organised crime groups were increasingly using the internet to "reach into our homes and steal money off us", as well as using it to sell illegal drugs, firearms, child pornography and identification documents.

"Organised crime worldwide now makes more than $870 billion a year," Mr Clare said.

"That's more than the GDP of Indonesia. Another way of putting it, if organised crime was a country, it would be in the G20 and these big organised crime syndicates that target Australia are also targeting other countries."

The ACC found to effectively target organised crime, law enforcement agencies needed to work together - in Australia and overseas.

Mr Clare said the report supported the government's push for tougher unexplained wealth laws.

In terms of social media, the ACC found criminals were using it to seek out officials, often with a view to pay them bribes to help facilitate their activities and access to Australian markets.

"Anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies continue to highlight public sector officials' inappropriate relationships with informants and criminal entities as a threat that can lead to corrupt activities, particularly for law enforcement agency members," the report read.

"Facilitating these relationships is the increasing use of social media sites by organised crime to initiate contact with public sector officials.

"This has been through sites based on similar interests - particularly relating to bodybuilding and kickboxing - or professional sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook, where public officials have included large amounts of personal details.

"Organised crime groups have used these details to initiate contact, which at first may appear to be within the context for interaction within these forums, but can be built upon to judge the potential for compromising the person being targeted."

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