September 27th, 1998
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer has warned of a regional threat to Australia by international criminal networks exploiting the collapse of the economies of countries in the AsiaPacific.
Mr Palmer said on Friday that unemployment and social unrest were increasing dramatically in neighbouring countries and many economies were on the verge of collapse.
In one country, which he described as “critically important” to Australia, the banks had accumulated unredeemable loans of more than a trillion US dollars.
However, about 40% of this total had been lent to groups or corporations with organised criminal connections. Attempts by banking or corporate executives to recover the money had elicited threats or violence, including murder.
Mr Palmer said 40 to 50% of the economies of Russia and other former Eastern bloc countries were believed to be under the control of the Russian “Mafiya”, and 80% of all business profit went to pay protection. Up to 30% of the total income of organised criminal groups was being used to bribe government officials.
Unemployment in Indonesia was measured in millions, up to 100 million people living below the poverty line ($US1 a day).
“So, contrary to the rather complacent view we may have held a few years ago, that we live in a stable, peaceful and prosperous region, this is clearly no longer the case,” he said. There was little doubt that criminal groups and networks were in an excellent position to exploit the situation to the enormous detriment of the people living in those countries. There was clear evidence they were doing so already.
The AFP and other Australian law-enforcement agencies needed to adopt a wider role than mere enforcement, but must ensure that Australia kept its reputation as being a safe and trusted place for investment and tourism, and retain confidence in its financial infrastructure.
Australia must be seen to have “a sting in the regulatory tail”, and be a place in which law enforcement was seen to be honest, effective and relevant.
The AFP would focus on the criminal organisers of any illegal commodity. Mr Palmer, who expressed his personal regret at losing 400 federal agents in his 7 years as commissioner, said the AFP did not have the resources to be “all things to all people”. Instead, it needed to focus on core business, and deploy agents to the best advantage.
Australia needed its new agents to have high integrity, intellect and courage.
– Peter Clack