Media statement: APOT strategy

High-risk criminal targets, including Australian Priority Organisation Targets (APOT) and Regional Priority Organisation Targets (RPOT) are resilient, well-resourced criminal entities that exploit national and international connections posing a threat to Australia’s national interest.

The APOT strategy is an ACIC-coordinated initiative focused on identifying, assessing, designating and coordinating operational responses to the transnational serious and organised crime targets that pose the greatest threat to Australia’s interests. The intent of the strategy is to improve understanding and facilitate disruption, in collaboration with our domestic and international law enforcement and intelligence partners within local, regional and global contexts, to enhance community safety in Australia. Central to the strategy is partnerships with Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement agencies, as well with the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group and other international partners.

The APOT strategy has continued to see significant levels of cooperation between law enforcement and offshore partners. This led to the disruption of three APOT networks over the 2020–21 reporting period, to the point that they are no longer considered APOT-level threats. Elements of a further nine APOT networks were significantly disrupted, decreasing the overall threat of the criminal organisation.

Two APOTs in particular originated from South Australia, where they have particularly strong associations with local outlaw motorcycle gangs and serious organised crime. South Australia is one of the main targets for drug importation and distribution ventures, and they are believed to have imported at least a tonne of methylamphetamine into South Australia in recent years.

In collaboration with our domestic and international law enforcement partners and regulatory agencies, we have worked tirelessly to target these APOTs. This has significantly reduced the threat they pose to the South Australian community.

Between 2016 and 2020 our intelligence alone led to the identification of a commercial clandestine laboratory in South Australia, the seizure of $600,000 and 81.5 kilograms of drugs – drugs that would have otherwise ended up on the streets of South Australia and beyond.

Our work with our partners in South Australia has also led to the arrest of 11 members of serious and organised crime networks with two deported from Australia. The use of our coercive powers through our examination capability has also led to one network member being found guilty of contempt of the ACIC for failing to answer questions required of them, and they currently remain imprisoned.

These results demonstrate how we work with our partners to dismantle APOTs, and reduce the damage caused by these harmful drugs.

In 2016, our intelligence resulted in our partners seizing more than $500,000 cash and arrested two Singaporean nationals at Adelaide Airport waiting to fly to Singapore. Analysis identified transportation of cash by couriers via international flights was being used by the serious and organised crime syndicate to remove proceeds of crime from Australia.

In 2016, we worked with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) on a seizure of 37,000 ‘street deals’ of methylamphetamine imported to South Australian addresses affiliated with the syndicate, with several people arrested. The methylamphetamine was concealed inside aircraft cylinder heads and analysis identified more than 100 imports from Malaysia and the Philippines, equating to hundreds of kilograms being imported.

From 2017 to 2019, the ACIC-led operations included one that analysed the syndicates financial and corporate structures, identifying key onshore and offshore professional facilitators, movement of funds, and money laundering methodologies. This resulted in offshore engagement and the use of ACIC coercive powers against key facilitators.

The ACIC intelligence supported our partners operation resulting in the seizure of more than 200 kilograms of methylamphetamine imported to addresses in South Australia and New South Wales and the arrest of three men. The methylamphetamine was concealed inside machinery and analysis identified numerous imports from Malaysia, equating to hundreds of kilograms being imported.

The ACIC will continue to work with Australian and international partners to disrupt serious and organised crime affecting Australia. We are always evolving our approach to disrupting APOTs to focus on achieving more significant and longer-term effects.

Matthew Rippon

Deputy CEO Intelligence

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission