The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police Reece Kershaw used his address to the National Press Club in Canberra this week to single out the freight and logistics industry as an area of focus of ‘Operation Ironside’.
Arrests to date have included many private sector employees across freight forwarding and logistic companies, couriers and trucking firms, in addition to those working at ports, airports and mail centres.
The operation has successfully employed a police sting in which criminals believed they were communicating on a secure platform but in fact were being covertly monitored by crime fighting agencies including the AFP and the FBI, who were able to read encrypted messages in real time.
“About a year ago I stood at this podium and I sent a direct warning to criminals that the AFP will be relentless and we will outsmart you and we’ll always be a step ahead,” Commissioner Kershaw said.
Operation Ironside has exposed the largest organised crime operation in southern hemisphere mainly involving drugs but also illegal tobacco and firearms.
Operation Ironside targeted outlaw motorcycle gang leadership as well as ‘trusted insiders’ like baggage handlers and postal workers.
“These workers who have knowledge of logistics chains and facilitate crime for organise crime syndicates are a focus for the AFP,” Kershaw said.
“Twenty nine trusted insiders have been arrested under Operation Ironside and at least 20 of those had previously held an aviation or maritime security identification card,” said the Commissioner.
“The breadth and the scale of drug and other criminality has been staggering,” said Commissioner Kershaw.
As of July 25, Operation Ironside has charged 289 offenders with 724 charges, the majority relating to drug crime.
The charges relate to almost five tonnes of drugs and 138 firearms and weapons while $49m in cash has been seized along with $19m in assets including houses and performance motor vehicles.