Organised crime groups

Organised crime groups

Organised crime groups in Australia pose a high threat to the Australian way of life. They can range from high profile outlaw motorcycle gangs, to transnational syndicates based offshore. Organised crime groups are also increasingly using professional facilitators and service providers to help or ‘facilitate’ their criminal activities.

Organised crime syndicates or groups engineer much of Australia’s serious crime. These groups are often well-planned enterprises focused on making money. They are engaged in a wide range of activity across many sectors and at all levels of society.

Organised crime groups in Australia pose a high threat to the Australian way of life. They are diverse and flexible, capable, resourceful and resilient. They evolve and adapt to changes in the environment, looking for vulnerabilities to exploit for criminal gain. 

Despite their diversity, high threat organised crime groups have some common characteristics including:

  • transnational connections
  • expansion across multiple crime markets
  • involvement in financial crimes
  • intermingling of legitimate and criminal enterprises
  • use of new technologies
  • use of specialist advice and professional facilitators​
  • the ability to withstand law enforcement interventions.

Approximately 70 per cent of Australia’s serious and organised crime threats are based offshore or have offshore links.

Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) are one of the most high-profile manifestations of organised crime, with an active presence in all Australian states and territories. They see themselves as the ‘one percenters’ who operate outside the law. Their criminal activities distinguish OMCGs from recreational motor cycle riding clubs, which are made up of people who get together solely to ride their motor cycles and socialise.

OMCGs continue to exert significant influence over illicit commodity markets; particularly the illicit drug market. OMCGs also continue to engage in high impact violence, including the use of firearms.

OMCGs feature prominently in political and public discussions of organised crime in Australia. However, it is difficult to gauge the percentage of organised crime attributed specifically to OMCG members. While they are prevalent in all states and territories, they are just one part of the organised crime picture in Australia. Australian OMCG activities are mostly domestic, but they increasingly have international connections. This includes Australian OMCGs expanding offshore or cooperating with overseas chapters and sophisticated and high threat organised crime groups operating in Australia and internationally.

The most recent assessment of OMCGs (September 2020) identified that there are 38 ‘one percent’ OMCGs operating in Australia, with more than 4,700 patched members and 1000 prospects.

The following chart identifies Australian motorcycle gangs.

Criminal groups frequently seek out industry professionals and service providers to help or ‘facilitate’ their criminal activities. Criminal groups are motivated to use professional facilitators for two reasons:

  • criminals often lack the necessary skills, knowledge or access to carry out crimes in particular sectors, such as in complex financial or computer-based sectors
  • using facilitators helps criminals distance themselves from criminal activity and these professionals can give the criminal activity an aura of legitimacy.

Some facilitators are willing and paid helpers, while others may be coerced through blackmail and intimidation, and some may be unaware they are facilitating crime. Generally professional facilitators use specialist knowledge and expertise to exploit legal loopholes, find opportunities for criminals, or help criminals retain and legitimise proceeds of crime.

The type of work done by facilitators varies, and examples include: 

  • laundering money by working around regulations and controls in the regulated financial sector, or by buying or selling high-end luxury goods 
  • manipulating import processes at borders 
  • transporting and storing illicit goods 
  • assisting with technical components in manufacturing illicit drugs 
  • reaching and communicating with intended victims of fraud 
  • providing access to communication facilities such as phone, fax or email so criminal groups can communicate with each other using the facilitator’s business as a ‘shield’ 
  • helping criminals avoid detection when laundering money by adding legitimacy to financial transactions 
  • providing clandestine accommodation for human trafficking victims
  • using computer technology to help steal identities.