The largest ever drug interception operation coordinated by ACT Policing has seen approximately 384 kilograms of cocaine seized and two men charged with drug importation offences. Earlier this year, ACT Policing received information relating to a possible drug importation syndicate operating in southern New South Wales and the ACT. Read more
Three men have been charged for their alleged roles in attempts to import a large number of firearms parts into Australia through the postal system. The operation began on 9 January 2019 when Australian Border Force (ABF) officers at the Melbourne International Mail Facility targeted a consignment containing a child’s toy motorcycle. X-ray analysis identified anomalies in the consignment and further examination by ABF officers revealed multiple firearm parts had been hot-glued to the outside of the motorcycle. Following further investigation with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the ABF identified another two packages that were found to contain firearms parts in a similar concealment.
Last week (21 – 24 January 2019), a number of search warrants were executed in the Melbourne suburbs of Brunswick and Southbank, as well as locations in New South Wales at locations believed to be associated with the importations. During the operation, investigators seized:
60 gun receivers.
24 drum magazines capable of holding 50 bullets.
16 handgun frames.
Springs, magazine followers, and end caps.
A 25-year-old man, a 26-year-old man and a 33-year-old man were charged with:
Possessing a traffickable quantity of unregistered firearms contrary to 7C(1) of Firearms Act 1996 (Vic).
Trafficking prohibited firearms or firearm parts into Australia contrary to section 361.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
Intentionally import goods, being tier 2 goods comprising firearm parts, being reckless as to the fact that the goods were tier 2 goods, and being goods the importation of which was prohibited under the Customs Act 1901 (Cth) unless the approval of a particular person had been obtained and at the time of the importation that approval had not been obtained, contrary to section 233BAB(5) of the Customs Act 1901 (Cth).
In the course of trade or commerce among the States, between Territories or between a Territory and a State, engage in conduct that constitutes an offence under a firearm law, reckless as to the fact that the primary element of the offence is the acquisition of a firearm or a firearm part by the person contrary to section 360.2(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
The 33 year old male faces an additional charge in relation to the destruction of evidence. The maximum penalty for these charges is 10 years imprisonment. AFP Detective Superintendent Jayne Crossling said the seizures were significant, and attempts to illegally import firearms parts were always treated seriously. “Attempting to smuggle items like these will always attract a swift and comprehensive response from law enforcement. We do not want unregulated and unchecked items possibly making their way to criminal groups, which then has far-reaching consequences for the safety of the community,” Superintendent Crossling said. “There is now no chance that these weapons will end up in the dangerous hands of Outlaw Criminal Motorcycle Gangs or other criminals. The AFP and our partners will continue to work together with our international colleagues to stop these items entering our community. This is a great example of good, cooperative policing with a positive outcome for everyone.” ABF Regional Commander Victoria Craig Palmer said the detection highlights the effectiveness of the multi-layered approach deployed by ABF at the border. “ABF officers working in the international mail environment, in Melbourne and around the country, are highly skilled in targeting suspect consignments and detecting firearms parts, no matter how they are concealed,” Regional Commander Palmer said. “Our officers are supported by technology and use other detection methodologies at our international mail centres to identify a range of high risk items. In this case these techniques have helped us prevent a significant number of firearms entering the community and potentially falling into the wrong hands. “The ABF continues to work closely with our law enforcement partners to detect and seize illicit firearms parts and go after the criminals attempting to use them or profit from their importation.”
Australia faces a biosecurity risk due to an inadequate risk assessment of wood materials found in packaging materials. Our neighbours across the Tasman have a risk assessment process from which Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) could learn and which, I would argue, would be a huge improvement to our current process. In a nutshell, Australia doesn’t check containers, meaning wooden packaging that has not been fumigated is slipping across our borders undeclared and unchecked. I refer in particular to the processing of Less Than Container Load (LCL) shipments. In the Australian context, LCL require a one-page packing declaration that identifies and ‘risk-assesses’ any wood used as packaging and further whether any wood has been treated to Australian biosecurity standards. If wood is contained and has not been treated, it needs to be inspected, treated or disposed. There are a few issues with this process:
The person filling out the packing declaration is either the supplier or the packer; both commercially connected to the importer and therefore with a potential conflict of interest.
DAWR doesn’t physically check LCL cargo to ensure that forms have been accurately completed.
The template is only supplied in English regardless of the language of the person completing the document, usually an international supplier. I have often wondered how many of the people filling out the form even understand the language on the form.
The form has been changed three times in the past two years.
There is no surprise then, to learn that the forms are frequently incorrect and as a customs broker, I commonly need to ask the supplier to prepare another declaration to bring it to the new standard, or to ask if the answers are accurate. But not all LCL shipments are assessed by a customs broker, self-assessed clearances under the tax-free threshold can be completed by anyone. If Australia is to keep its borders safe from biosecurity risks, it needs to be sure that the risks are not slipping under its nose, and for that we can look to New Zealand’s process. New Zealand, generally regarded to be more responsible for its pristine environment, doesn’t require packaging declarations for LCL cargo. Instead, all LCL cargo is inspected at the unpacking depot before the cargo is released. A system of thorough checks like this is positive because, from the get-go, suppliers and importers know that cargo will be checked, which means that they will self-regulate to meet quarantine requirements in order to avoid storage and or further fees. The process is effective. In the past 12 months, DAWR has changed its one-page packing declaration three times in order to improve its accuracy. But it is still only in English. It is still only filled out by the importer’s people and it is still not checked against the cargo. I would argue, therefore, that it still holds little value. Changing the document doesn’t solve the problem, physically checking the containers would. Peter McRae is the principal of Platinum Freight Management.
Almost 60 million cigarettes have been seized as part of a joint operation targeting illicit tobacco, significantly disrupting a large criminal syndicate operating in multiple states and territories. The joint investigation involved officers from the Australian Border Force (ABF), the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and NSW Police Force. The complex investigation began in June 2017, following information received from ACIC which uncovered large scale illicit tobacco importation and money laundering undertaken by a serious organised crime syndicate with links to South East Asia. The ten subsequent seizures ranged from 38,000 cigarettes to more than 20 million in each consignment. Some were concealed among legitimate goods while others filled entire shipping containers that were deliberately declared as other items. In total, the cigarettes represented more than $40 million in evaded duty. As a result of this investigation, a number of individuals have been identified and possible charges will be laid. On March 1 this year, the QPS arrested two men on the Gold Coast and it is expected that they will face charges relating to money laundering. ABF Superintendent Leo Lahey from the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce said the operation was an example of what can be achieved when we pool the resources of our state, federal and international law enforcement and intelligence partners. “These seizures also highlight the critical need to combat the illicit tobacco trade. This work will be tasked to the new multi-agency ABF-led Illicit Tobacco Task Force which was stood up this week. Working collaboratively across agencies in this way will always be critical to success,” Superintendent Lahey said. The Illicit Tobacco Taskforce combines the resources of the ABF, Department of Home Affairs, ACIC, the Australian Taxation Office, AUSTRAC and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. ACIC Queensland State Manager Charlie Carver said serious and organised crime groups are more attracted to the Australian illicit tobacco market than ever before. “Organised crime has no borders and these significant results demonstrate the benefits of state, territory and Commonwealth agencies working together,” Mr Carver said. Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker of the Queensland Police Service Drug and Serious Crime Group said organised crime syndicates engineer a transnational grab for cash through a combination of legitimate and criminal enterprises. “We will continue to target and disrupt organised crime groups involved in money laundering as these proceeds are used to distribute illicit commodities causing great harm to our community,” Detective Superintendent Wacker said. “Engaging in the illegal tobacco trade supports organised crime syndicates and we will exploit every opportunity to dismantle their networks and recover funds and prosecute organised crime syndicates. The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is ten years imprisonment, and penalties of up to five times the amount of duty evaded can also be imposed by the courts.
The Australian Border Force, which plays a vital role in protecting Australia’s borders, has signed on to exhibit at inaugural supply chain expo MEGATRANS2018. Responsible for the protection of Australia’s border in partnership with a range of intelligence, law enforcement and other agencies, Australian Border Force also has a major role in managing the movement of goods across the nation’s borders. This includes Australia’s airports and seaports, making it a significant addition to the MEGATRANS2018 lineup. The trade show is set to bring together leaders and stakeholders in the wider Australian and international supply chain, including those in the transport, logistics, warehousing solutions, material handling and infrastructure sectors.
Logistics company DHL has predicted that delivery volumes in Australia over the 2017 Christmas season will be up 20 per cent from the 2016 season, with peak volumes of overseas parcels expected on 18 December, as a final wave of last minute international orders are placed over the preceding weekend. “Consumers are gradually turning to overseas online retailers for their Christmas purchases,” said Gary Edstein, CEO and Senior Vice President, DHL Express Oceania. “Online shopping enables them to buy products from around the world that may not be available in domestic brick and mortar stores. And with online retailers now offering a wide range of convenient delivery options to consumers, it’s now easier than ever to fill the Christmas stocking. “At DHL Express, we are experiencing the direct effect of the move to online shopping, and in response to this, we have put in place a peak Christmas season strategy to cater to this tremendous volume growth.” DHL’s couriers will be working extended delivery hours six days a week on the run-up to Christmas, adding additional weekend and evening delivery routes and more than 300 additional drivers working in the lead-up to Christmas Eve. “The teams are the very heart of our delivery operations; our courier drivers, our warehouse staff and the pilots flying our planes all work tirelessly to ensure every parcel is delivered within our transit time targets,” said Edstein. “It is incredibly positive to witness such strong industry growth year-on-year.”
Taste Ireland, an Australian distributor of Irish and UK foods, has announced a new end-to-end freight agreement with logistics company DHL. DHL Global Forwarding will ship Taste Ireland’s products on direct sailings to Australia, selected to minimise transit times and the risk of in-transit food expiry. DHL will ship temperature-sensitive products in its refrigerated containers. Prior to shipping, DHL will consolidate and pack Taste Ireland’s orders from customers including supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths as well as Irish pubs in Australia, to reduce container numbers and optimise transport costs and times for the distributor. “We chose to work with DHL because of their exemplary track record in handling time-sensitive food shipments with strict compliance, accuracy, and efficiency,” said Eamon Eastwood, CEO, Taste Ireland. “As our business continues to grow at breakneck speed, we needed a forwarder who could not only simplify and speed up our shipping process across numerous line items, but give us full visibility of and confidence in our shipments’ freshness when they arrive at each customer’s door.” DHL will also pre-clear Taste Ireland’s shipments with Australian customs, and offer door-to-door airfreight for more urgent shipments. “We’re excited to be helping Taste Ireland as it makes the leap from SME to global supplier of repute, by giving them total visibility and compliance across every facet of the logistics process as well as the support of our world-class customs clearance processes,” said Tony Boll, CEO, DHL Global Forwarding – South Pacific. “The time previously spent on in-house logistics management can now go into how Taste Ireland markets and sells Ireland’s favourite foods to meet untapped and increasingly hungry demand throughout Australia and the South Pacific.”
Sydney-based logistics software provider WiseTech Global has announced the launch of border compliance engine BorderWise, for customs brokers, legal and other trade professionals. BorderWise brings together a range of border compliance data, law and regulation, with an advanced search functionality to help users minimise customs duty and mitigate the risks associated with customs non-compliance for themselves and their import and export customers in the countries involved. “Growing complexity in world trade continues to put pressure on the supply chain, and efficient border compliance is critical,” said Richard White, CEO, WiseTech Global. “We are creating the data sets and building powerful new technologies to address productivity, costs and risk mitigation in customs compliance.” “With increasing challenges in addressing border regulation, ensuring compliance is fraught with risk,” said Sue Danks, Director of Sue Danks Tariff Consulting and Vice Chair of CBFCA, who has assisted in the development of BorderWise. “Requirements keep changing as new legislation and policy changes keep rolling out, while data can be convoluted, difficult to interpret and hard to access efficiently. On top of that, not all customs authorities agree on the interpretation or classification of certain goods, and those opinions change, often with little or no notice to industry. “Most countries have numerous, sometime hundreds, of items of customs legislation or policy documentation, and therefore managing customs compliance is a growing and evolving challenge for customs brokers and self-reporting importers, especially in an environment where serious penalties are issued for non-compliance or duty short-payments. “In my opinion, Australian customs brokers are highly trained and skilled, but in a time of increased regulatory inspections and a penalty regime we all need all the assistance we can to provide advice that is timely and accurate.” For now, BorderWise launched in Australia for Australian customs on 1 December 2017, and is expected to be released in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the EU, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and the United Kingdom by the end of 2017. During 2018, BorderWise will be offered in Brazil, China, Germany, Italy and Taiwan.
Customs clearance broker Platinum Freight Management will launch its first regional office this month, in Wyong, New South Wales. Peter McRae, CEO, Platinum Freight Management, sees the area as an attractive and fast-growing home base for importers and exporters who need large warehousing facilities, citing its proximity to major international ports in Sydney and Newcastle. “Importers and exporters in the Wyong, Gosford and surrounds have enormous comparative freight and logistics costs due to their distance from international ports, so reducing extraneous costs should be a high priority,” said McRae. “Yet until now there has been an undersupply of internationally experienced customs brokers in the local area who can partner with them to offer premium advice in person.” “We are looking to make strong partnerships with local importers and exporters on the coast and help make a difference to their businesses,” McRae added. “We have designed our business to deliver a positive customer experience to all clients, commensurate with our motto: Simply no higher level of service,” said McRae. “Being local is an important part of this promise.”
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton used his opening address at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIPB) Industry Summit on Monday morning (31 July 2017) to assure those in the private supply chain and their clients that the current work agenda would be maintained under the proposed Home Affairs department. Along with the Acting Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF), Minister Dutton reiterated that the ABF would continue in its traditional ‘Customs’ role and the ABF, as part of the DIBP, would also continue its vital engagement with industry and development of trade facilitation measures to assist in the legitimate trade in goods and movement in people. At the time of the announcement of the creation of the new Department of Home Affairs (DHA), the focus of the commentary was on national and border security issues with no comment on the traditional ‘Customs’ role of the ABF or its ongoing engagement with industry and the facilitation of international trade at the border. Naturally, there were some concerns that the failure to address these important roles could mean that the importance of those roles was being downgraded and that momentum on various initiatives here and overseas could be lost with an increased focus on security and intervention in trade. Both speakers made the point that the involvement of the ABF with the DHA would allow the ABF to have access to additional information at an earlier stage than is presently the case, which would actually enhance the ability of the ABF to carry out its roles. These outcomes were all consistent with the theme of the industry summit being “Border Innovation: strengthening our nation’s economy, security and society.” In terms of the work of the DIBP and the ABF in the engagement with industry in relation to the movement of goods, there was reference to recent achievements and future commitments with such initiatives as:
The creation of a ‘single window’ for trade such as in Singapore and New Zealand.
The expansion of the Australian Trusted Trader Program (ATTP).
The recent completion of four Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) with other customs services for those in the ATTP.
The promise of more MRA with customs services in other trading partners.
The development and implementation of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) to improve the use of those current and future FTAs by the adoption of robust Rules of Origin, enhanced border clearance facilitation.
The increased use of more advance technology and reporting systems.
There were similar references to commitments in the migration space as relating to the movement of persons. The comments provide a degree of assurance to industry that the current work agenda would be maintained and developed and that the engagement with industry remained a priority. While the reference to the achievements and initiative represents only a reiteration of those developments currently known to industry, their clear support from the Federal Government filled in a gap in the story that arose with the announcements relating to the DHA. Industry looks forward to continued engagement on these projects and its ongoing collaborative work with government, whether the DIBP, the ABF or other agencies that have a role at the border. Andrew Hudson is Partner with Rigby Cooke Lawyers’ Litigation Team, specialising in all areas of trade including international trade conventions, dispute resolution and arbitration, trade financing options, commodity and freight contracts as well as dealing with regulation of the movement of goods at the border by all Government agencies. He is also a member of many of the consultative bodies established by Government in the trade space, including the National Committee on Trade Facilitation convened by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the International Trade Remedies Forum convened by the Anti – Dumping Commission (ADC) as well as associated sub-committees. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Export Council of Australia (ECA) and the Food and Beverage Importers Association (FBIA) and works closely with other industry associations representing those in the supply chain.