“A key challenge for the CCC will be to remain responsive to anticipated government reform, including that related to organised crime. To support this activity, the CCC will continue to develop measures of performance that more clearly demonstrate the value and impact of its work.”
--- Acting Chairman Dr Ken Levy RFD
The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) came into being on 1 July 2014 with the introduction of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.
The new Act introduced changes to the Commission’s governance structure and name –the CCC was formerly the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) – as well as changes to its complaints management responsibilities.
Jurisdiction in the area of public sector integrity moved from official misconduct and its prevention to a focus on serious and/or systemic corruption. The requirement for a statutory declaration to accompany a complaint was also introduced from 1 July 2014.
During its first year, the CCC contributed to the Queensland Organised Crime Commission of Inquiry, which looked at the extent and nature of organised crime in Queensland and the economic and social impacts of such activity. The CCC provided input into the Inquiry, which was due to report to the Premier by 30 October 2015.
Achievements of the CCC during 2014-15 included:
- Finalising 28 major crime investigations resulting in 82 people being charged with 687 offences
- Completing 45 corruption investigations resulting in 55 people being charged with 200 criminal offences
- Receiving 2347 complaints involving 5326 separate allegations of corruption
- Seizing $4.462 million worth of drugs
- Restraining $18.316 million in assets
- Forfeiting $8.375 million to the State
- Holding 297 coercive hearing days, including 75 days of intelligence hearings
- Admitting 72 persons to the witness protection program, with a 100% success rate maintained in keeping witnesses safe.
100 per cent of targeted criminal entities were disrupted as a result of CCC investigations during 2014-15.
At the end of the 2014-15 financial year, the CCC had 336.6 full-time equivalent staff, including lawyers, investigators, financial and intelligence analysts, social scientists and corporate support officers.
Investigations: outcomes and learnings
Illicit drug markets remained the most prominent, visible and profitable form of organised crime activity in Queensland. Due to the prevalence of methylamphetamine (particularly crystal methylamphetamine or “ice”) and the harms associated with its use, the ice market was determined as the drug market of highest threat to Queenslanders. During 2014-15, almost $3.3 million worth of methylamphetamine was seized and two commercial laboratories were closed down. As at 30 June 2015, the CCC had $24.532m worth of cash and assets under restraint arising from individuals alleged to be engaged in offences of manufacturing or trafficking in methylamphetamine in Queensland.
The CCC’s Operation Quaker targeted a cocaine-trafficking syndicate. The 13-month operation dismantled a major organised crime network involved in the supply of cocaine throughout Queensland.
Quaker focused on the trafficking activities of two key targets identified through intelligence. Drugs with an estimated value of over $1.4m were seized during the operation.
Boiler room fraud / Cold-call investment fraud
In 2014–15, the CCC investigated several suspected criminal networks based in Queensland allegedly engaged in cold-call investment fraud, often referred to as “boiler room” fraud.
Boiler room fraud is unsolicited contact, generally by telephone, with victims who are persuaded through false, misleading and deceptive information and practices to invest money in schemes involving financial management packages that will never achieve the promised returns. Investment in these schemes results in the eventual loss of the funds invested by the victim.
One investigation focused on suspected fraud by companies engaged in the marketing of products including investment software packages, gambling products, and financial management services. Information obtained during the CCC investigations was disseminated to other state and Commonwealth agencies.
Learning the lessons from investigations 2009–14
As part of the transition from the CMC to the CCC, investigation data for the previous five years was analysed to identify the most persistent forms of corruption/official misconduct in departments and agencies (excluding the QPS).
The main issues were:
• corruption and favouritism
• unauthorised disclosure of information
• misappropriation of assets and
• poor procurement processes
A failure of supervision was identified as a significant enabler.
The paper, Corruption in the public sector: the big issues (December 2014), was directed to CEOs and senior officers of public agencies. It brought together lessons drawn from investigations to highlight the issues most likely to put them and their agencies at risk. In particular, it emphasised the importance of leadership accountability and the harmful impact of supervisory failure.
The results of this analysis would help guide the focus of the CCC’s 2014–16 corruption audit program.
Improper use of information
Unauthorised access to and release of information by public servants and police can have significant consequences, including breaches of privacy laws, the compromising of law enforcement and confidential government activity, and the erosion of confidence in public agencies. Unauthorised access to and release of information, as well as the non-disclosure of conflicts of interests and associations have been, and continue to be, a dominant theme in the CCC’s corruption work.
Fifteen, or one-third, of the 45 investigations finalised in the 2014–15 reporting period involved allegations of inappropriate associations and/or unauthorised access to and release of confidential information.
A review of these matters identified vulnerabilities in both the QPS and the public sector more generally that could be exploited by persons involved in criminal activity. A lack of supervision coupled with inadequate policies to guide staff behaviour were key factors that facilitated this type of offending by employees, whether in conjunction with others or in isolation.
This work remains a focus for the CCC today in its corruption prevention efforts, particularly through the recent Operation Impala public hearing.
Research fraud at the University of Queensland
In September 2013, the CCC started an investigation into allegations of research fraud and the misuse of associated grant money at the University of Queensland. The investigation arose from the publication of an article purporting to discuss the outcomes of research involving patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The researchers used the article as supporting evidence for their attempts to obtain further grant funding and professional advancement. It was later discovered that the research had never been conducted and the article’s contents were fabricated.
In 2016 the researchers involved, both by that time former employees of the University, were convicted of fraud and attempted fraud in relation to the Parkinson’s research and other matters relating to applications for grant funding. The CCC’s investigation set a precedent for criminal prosecution for research-related fraud, and its lessons and impact were widely discussed across the university sector.
For more information on the CCC’s work during 2014-15, view the Annual Report here.