National Integrity Spotlight – October 2023

20 November 2023
Cinzia Donald, Partner, Perth (Lavan) Kelly Griffiths, Partner, Melbourne Daniel Maroske, Partner, Brisbane Kathy Merrick, Partner, Sydney

In this month’s edition of the National Integrity Spotlight, we consider the annual reports issued by the Australian integrity bodies, and updates from the National Anti-Corruption Commission. We also consider recent activities of the Western Australia Crime and Corruption Commission, and the Australian Federal Police’s Operation Avarus-Nightwolf.

Integrity Body Annual Reports 

Over the past month, most Australian integrity bodies have released their 2022-2023 Annual Reports. 

Crime and Corruption Commission (Queensland) 

The 2022-2023 Annual Report of the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (Qld CCC) highlighted a range of activities, including: 

  • 126 days of hearings to examine witnesses relating to major crime, intelligence and corruption investigations; 
  • 15 confiscation and proceeds of crime matters; 
  • 90 recommendations to units of public administration; 
  • 35 corruption prevention recommendations made; and 
  • one person charged with two criminal offences relating to corruption investigations. 

The Annual Report also indicated that significant progress had been made towards the implementation of the recommendations from the 2022 Fitzgerald/Wilson Commission of Inquiry. 

Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (Victoria) 

The 2022-2023 Annual Report of the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (Vic IBAC) provides important information as to the performance, achievements, and work undertaken to prevent and expose corruption in the public sector. The report highlights a number of achievements, including: 

  • 3,558 complaints or notifications received, 3,501 of which were assessed; 
  • 506 complaints or notifications were received as public interest disclosures and public interest disclosure notifications; 
  • 29 investigations and preliminary inquiries commenced into alleged serious public sector corruption and police misconduct, 26 of which were completed; 
  • 68 formal recommendations made (under the IBAC Act) for public sector agencies, including Victoria Police and Local government, to improve their systems, practices and controls; 
  • 230 reviews of police and public sector investigations, including 42 reviews of serious police incidents; and 
  • 157 corruption and police misconduct prevention initiatives delivered. 
Independent Commission Against Corruption (South Australia) 

The 2022-2023 Annual Report for the South Australian Independent Commission Against Corruption (SA ICAC) provided insight into the work of the SA ICAC over the last financial year, including the focus on prevention activities. 

Key highlights include: 

  • The commencement of 43 investigations relating to abuse of public office; 
  • Three matters referred to South Australian Police for further investigation and potential prosecution; 
  • 29 matters relating to abuse of public office referred to South Australian Police for investigation; and 
  • 134 recommendations made to public authorities across six reports that were tabled in the South Australian Parliament. 
Independent Commission Against Corruption (New South Wales) 

The 2022-2023 Annual Report for the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (NSW ICAC) was released and provided important information on the work of the NSW ICAC over the last financial year. 

Key highlights include: 

  • 3,004 matters were received and managed; 
  • five investigation reports were provided to the New South Wales Parliament; 
  • 3 public inquiries conducted over 42 days; 
  • 28 compulsory examinations conducted over 27 days; 
  • 45 serious corrupt conduct findings were made against 22 people; 
  • the NSW ICAC sought the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding the prosecution of 21 people; and 
  • advice was provided regarding corruption on 160 occasions. 
Independent Commission Against Corruption (Northern Territory) 

The 2022-2023 Annual Report for the Northern Territory Independent Commission Against Corruption (NT ICAC) sets out the work of the NT ICAC over the last financial year, including observations of Commissioner Riches that there is not wide-spread or systemic corruption in Northern Territory public bodies. 

Key highlights include: 

  • 433 contacts were received, consisting of 330 reports, 80 contacts providing insufficient or non-specific information to be treated as a report, and 23 general inquiries; 
  • 358 allegations were received for assessment, 271 of which were identified as being from public officers or public bodies; 
  • 131 allegations were referred to agencies; 
  • 398 allegations were assessed, with 15 the subject of a preliminary inquiry and 14 being the subject of a NT ICAC investigation; and 
  • 131 allegations were referred to referral entity. 
ACT Integrity Commission (Australian Capital Territory) 

The 2022-2023 Annual Report for the ACT Integrity Commission (ACT IC) highlights the work of the ACT IC in its third full year of operations. 

Key highlights include: 

  • 148 reports were received, consisting of 120 corruption complaints, 22 mandatory corruption reports, and six public interest disclosures; 
  • of the reports received, 128 reports were dismissed, 9 were referred, 14 were investigated, and three required preliminary inquiry; 
  • 12 corruption investigations and eight preliminary inquiries were ongoing as at 30 June 2023; and 
  • investigative action taken included 55 private examinations, 114 confidentiality notices, 88 examination summonses issued; and five preliminary notices were issued. 
Integrity Commission (Tasmania) 

The 2022-2023 Annual Report of the Tasmanian Integrity Commission (Tas IC) highlights the work of the Tas IC over the last financial year. 

Key highlights include: 

  • 181 misconduct complaints were received; 
  • 26 assessments and four complaint investigations were completed; 
  • 59 misconduct matters were referred to public authorities for actioning; 
  • 81 occasions where statutory powers of investigation were used; and 
  • Six public reports were released in the public interest. 

Recent WA Crime and Corruption Matters 

Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission (WA CCC) recently issued a report into a senior police officer sharing confidential information with a reporter. On 26 October 2023 the WA CCC published that it had tabled a report to Parliament detailing the conduct of a WAPF Senior Sergeant who worked several high-profile cases, and allegedly shared confidential details of those cases to journalists. 

The WA CCC has announced that it has begun an investigation into an incident in Unit 18 at Casuarina Prison on 12 October 2023, where the media had reported that a teenage Aboriginal prisoner has been rushed to hospital after he was found unconscious following a self-harm incident. The prisoner ended up dying while in hospital a week later. 

AFP Operation Avarus-Nightwolf 

In March 2023, ‘Taskforce Avarus’ was launched by the Australian Federal Police in conjunction with Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and the Australian Border Force. The aim of the task force is to utilise the specialised functions of these four government agencies to combat complex, large scale, and systemic money laundering operations. 

The Taskforce established Operation Avarus-Nightwolf to investigate the Long River money laundering organisation allegedly linked this criminal group to the Changjiang Currency Exchange. The Exchange is accused of laundering almost $229 million in the proceeds of crime in the past three years. 

The AFP became aware of the activity during COVID-19, when most money-exchanges were shut down due to the lack of travel. AFP officers noticed that the Changjiang Currency Exchange was still highly active and require further scrutiny. Seven syndicate members were charged with money laundering as part of Operation Avarus-Nightwolf, and over the past 12 months, Taskforce Avarus investigations have led to 26 people being arrested. 

NACC Update 

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) continues to provide regular updates on referrals, assessment process, and investigations. 

Key data, from the 1 July commencement of the NACC until 5 November 2023, includes: 

  • 1,824 referrals were received; 
  • 1,288 referrals were excluded at the triage stage of assessment as they did not involve a Commonwealth public official or did not raise a corruption issue; 
  • 146 referrals are pending triage; 
  • 181 referrals are currently under assessments; 
  • 13 preliminary investigations have been opened; and 
  • six new investigations have been commenced. 
Integrity Outlook Report 

In October, the NACC released the Integrity Outlook 2022/2023 report, which examined corruption risks and vulnerabilities identified from July 2020 – June 2023 in finalised investigations undertaken under the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006. The issues identified in the report provide guidance for agencies on areas where targeted prevention work may be necessary. 

The key areas of concern identified include: 

  1. misuse of information: examples provided include unauthorised access to or modification of restricted data, and the unauthorised disclosure of information; 
  2. conflicts of interest: the report specifically stated that breaches of public trust, abuse of office, and misuse of information often originate from conflicts of interest; 
  3. fraud: examples provided included the misuse of credit cards, forgery of official documents, theft, and misuse of intellectual property; 
  4. abuse of office: examples provided included soliciting or receiving bribes, visa fraud, and the exploitation of public resources for personal gain; and 
  5. grooming: the practice of building personal relationships and influence with officials for the purpose of exploiting relationships for private gain or access to information. 

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Authored by:
Cinzia Donald, Partner, (Lavan)
Kelly Griffiths, Partner
Daniel Maroske, Partner
Anna Fanelli, Senior Associate
Jethro Schoeman, Solicitor (Lavan)
Emma Bolton, Solicitor (Lavan) 

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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