On 28 March 2022, DTO21 (court appointed pseudonym) was found guilty of contempt of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) in the Federal Court of Australia for failing to answer questions asked by an ACIC Examiner and was sentenced to an indefinite term of imprisonment.
The ACIC has been granted extraordinary powers which permit Examiners of the ACIC to compel witnesses to answer questions, or produce documents or things, in relation to special ACIC operations or investigations.
These powers are at the centre of our agency’s operational effort and allow us to target the highest level of transnational serious and organised crime threats, including serious drug crime which has a devastating impact on the Australian community.
Contempt of the ACIC is a serious matter and failure to comply with the directions of an Examiner is an offence. We take contempt of our powers very seriously and do not hesitate to seek prosecution of persons summonsed under the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 (Cth) who fail to answer questions or provide misleading or false evidence.
People involved in serious and organised crime should remember there are serious consequences for witnesses holding back information in our examinations. This ruling demonstrates our powers working to maximum effect.
After avoiding law enforcement for more than 20 years, witness DTO21 was summonsed to appear before an ACIC Examiner in mid-2021, on the basis of their various significant links and close associations with members of transnational serious and organised crime groups.
ACIC intelligence suggests that they acted as a facilitator for former Australian Priority Organisation Target, the Potter network, who were linked to corruption on the waterfront, and an international drug trafficking organisation involved in the importation of commercial quantities of border-controlled drugs within heavy machinery. DTO21 is also suspected to have historical links to the Bra Boys.
During the examination DTO21 deliberately refused to answer questions which the Examiner required them to answer, potentially placing police at risk and causing evidence to be destroyed, prior to the resolution of a major law enforcement operation.
As Justice Thawley noted in his judgement: “The examination is part of an investigation of significant importance conducted for the protection of the community. Illicit drug use and supply has serious adverse impacts on the community. Parliament has imposed an obligation on persons properly summonsed to an examination to answer questions at the examination and to do so truthfully.”
The ACIC has recently expanded our examination capabilities, including the appointment of three new full‑time Examiners to join our existing Examiners, and the establishment of a dedicated Examinations branch to maximise the benefits we derive from this power.
With increased national reach and a range of specialised skills sets, this capability unique to the ACIC allows our agency to continue increasing the pressure on criminal networks that seek to make a profit from the importation, manufacture, trafficking and sale of drugs that cause harm to the Australian community.
Michael Phelan APM
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission