Queensland’s criminal watchdog chief has warned that enablers of major organised crime would continue to remain the focus of ongoing covert scrutiny and investigation.
Crime and Corruption Commission Chair Alan MacSporran QC, in the CCC’s 2020-21 annual report, said that throughout the past year the commission had achieved significant outcomes from its continued focus on the enablers of major and organised crime.
Mr MacSporran, in the report tabled in Parliament recently, said the scale of alleged offending uncovered in the 12-month period was so extensive as to demand ongoing investigation.
The CCC charged a number of legal practitioners with criminal offences, including money laundering, as part of two major crime operations during the past financial year.
In December 2020, a Gold Coast criminal lawyer was charged with fraud against Legal Aid Queensland and money laundering in the wake of a CCC 16-month investigation codenamed Operation Jackal.
The 46-year-old Burleigh Heads solicitor was served with a notice to appear in court and is still awaiting trial to answer three counts of money laundering, two counts of fraud, two counts of supplying a dangerous drug and three counts of possessing a dangerous drug.
The man’s 38-year-old female partner was also arrested during the operation and charged with four counts of possessing a dangerous drug.
In February 2021, the CCC charged another two men as part of Operation Jackal – a 57-year-old Rockhampton man with one count of money laundering of criminal proceeds in return for legal services and a 31-year-old Gold Coast man on two counts of supplying dangerous drugs.
The CCC, as part of a separate investigation dubbed Operation Mercury, in November last year charged four people with serious offences in the wake of an 18-month investigation into two Brisbane-based law firms.
The four, including a Brisbane solicitor from Ascot, were all charged with money laundering and numerous counts of aggravated fraud.
The CCC, in a statement at the time, said: “It will be alleged the four people charged … were involved in serious fraud offences against a number of financial institutions. It will also be alleged those charged … laundered the proceeds of serious criminal offences.”
Mr MacSporran, in his annual report message, said Operation Jackal and Operation Mercury investigated allegations that legal professionals were facilitating the criminal activities of their clients.
“Combined, the two investigations resulted in the charging of a range of legal professionals, their clients and associates with over 400 offences, including money laundering, fraud, and possession of dangerous drugs.
“In Operation Mercury alone, a solicitor from a Brisbane-based law firm was charged with 110 offences.
“The scale of the alleged offending that we uncovered in these operations has clearly demonstrated the value of our continued focus in this area.”
Mr MacSporran said that, by directing its efforts towards the systems and expertise that enabled or facilitated serious crimes, the CCC had been able to identify and exploit criminal network vulnerabilities.
“For example, in April 2021, following an investigation into the supply of encrypted communications devices, we charged a person with money laundering, structuring cash payments to defeat mandatory reporting protocols, and attempting to pervert the course of justice,” he said.
“We uncovered that the person had supplied more than 500 encrypted communication devices across 32 separate suspected organised crime groups, predominantly to persons engaged in trafficking dangerous drugs, and had acquired more than $1.75 million in proceeds, as part of his activities.”
Read the CCC annual report.