Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw assumes the chair of the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group (FELEG).
Commissioner Kershaw acknowledged outgoing chair, US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram, for her leadership and commitment to the law enforcement alliance, which includes United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.
Under his two-year term as chair, Commissioner Kershaw will continue to build on FELEG's crucial role in sharing intelligence and facilitating global criminal investigations with like-minded countries.
"The mission statement of FELEG is to use and leverage its collective capabilities to impact the transnational criminal and national security environment with the goals of making our nations safer,'' Commissioner Kershaw said.
"The global threats from transnational organised crime against governments, business and individuals have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Now more than ever, FELEG will be invaluable in impacting the serious threats that undermine international and domestic security, financial stability and democracy."
Commissioner Kershaw said the AFP's most successful crime operation in the organisation's 40-year history, Operation Ironside, was executed with the support of international law enforcement agencies, including FELEG members.
FELEG's strategic direction is set in consensus between agency principals. While that direction may complement law enforcement activity, it does not override the policing priorities of member countries.
The FELEG chair rotates through the heads of nine member agencies - across five countries - every two years.
The AFP's operational priorities are transnational serious organised crime; counter terrorism; espionage and foreign interference; cyber and fraud, and child exploitation.
"These are borderless crimes. Strong law enforcement partnerships are integral in keeping Australia, and Australia's interests, safe,'' Commissioner Kershaw said.
"In my third year as AFP Commissioner, the AFP will use its capability, resources and unique partnerships to continue to identify, disrupt and take action against offenders who threaten Australia.
"The AFP and our partners are ensuring we are prepared for the re-opening of international borders in the wake of COVID-19.
"We do expect criminals will try to smuggle more contraband into Australia when more flights resume. My warning to criminals is this: do not test the AFP and our partners' resolve to identify and charge you.
"Operation Ironside provided a glimpse into the industrial-scale importation of drugs into Australia.
"Transnational serious organised crime will continue to target Australia but the AFP is systemically busting open the leaderships of outlaw motorcycle groups, cartels and syndicates.
"The AFP is under no illusions about the growing challenge in front of us. Technology and legislation will need to continuously evolve to ensure we can continue to keep Australians safe from murderers whose violence is motivated by greed and turf wars."
Commissioner Kershaw said it was likely criminals would also attempt to prey on vulnerable people to traffic them in and out of Australia when borders reopened.
"The AFP will be a step ahead in readiness to bring these offenders before the court."
Commissioner Kershaw said the pandemic had inflamed the threat of terrorism.
"The threat of terrorism has not dissipated. Like the child predators who are finding more victims online because of lockdowns, those with extremists' views are using the pandemic to recruit and spread their misinformation.
"Equally, cybercrime is front of mind for the AFP."
The AFP has established cybercrime as standalone crime priority and significantly enhancing its capabilities to counter cybercrime.
The AFP has deployed dedicated cyber liaison officers to Serbia and South Africa to provide a regional presence in Eastern Europe and Africa.
A further officer will be deployed to the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance in Pennsylvania to further deepen the AFP's longstanding relationship with the US, which remains a vital international partner to combat cybercrime.
These positions are in addition to existing cybercrime officer positions in Washington, London and The Hague.
Commissioner Kershaw said cybercrime was the break and enter of the 21st Century.
"However, unlike traditional burglaries, offenders can be thousands of kilometres away and still reach Australian wallets and nest eggs.
"But this is no barrier for the AFP. Whether they are child predators, transnational criminal syndicates, fraudsters, an extremist preparing for an act of terror or foreign interference or espionage, the AFP will disrupt and arrest offenders who seek to harm Australians, no matter where those criminals are in the world."
"The long-arm of the AFP - we are posted in 33 countries - will disrupt or leverage our strategic global law enforcement partnerships to target offenders who undermine Australian sovereignty and safety.
"This is the unique position the AFP has when protecting Australia."
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