CHAPTER 3: Definitions

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CHAPTER 3: Definitions

3.1 The words 'Asian', 'organised' and 'crime' each require a brief comment in order to explain the scope of the remainder of this discussion paper.

3.2 The discussion paper deals with the three ethnically-based groupings commonly regarded as making up the 'Asian' organised crime of interest to Australian law enforcement agencies:

3.3 The Report of the Review of Commonwealth Law Enforcement Arrangements recommended that the NCA have 'a strategic and/or coordination role' in respect of eleven matters, three of which were 'Chinese Triad Societies', 'Vietnamese organised crime groups', and 'Yakuza groups' (para. 7.50(4)). The Government has accepted this recommendation.

3.4 The Committee recognises that the vast majority of the ethnic communities referred to are not involved in organised, or indeed any, criminal activity. In using ethnicity as a defining factor, the Committee is following the well-established practice of law enforcement agencies both in Australia and overseas. In the view of these agencies, the particular criminal organisations use membership of the relevant ethnic group as a key factor in determining who is allowed to participate, especially at the more senior levels or in taking the major roles in particular crimes. Ethnic group membership is sometimes seen as a key factor enabling ethnic-group organised crime to be more successful than other groups.[1] It is a matter for debate, however, whether the ethnic factor is sometimes overstated in the context of 'Asian organised crime' in Australia.

3.5 Russian organised crime has attracted a great deal of media interest since the break-up of the Soviet Union. However, it is not covered in this discussion paper, mainly because it is not conventionally considered as 'Asian'. Moreover, there is, it seems, little evidence that it has established any Australian presence so far. Only one significant case appears to have been reported, the one in 1993 by the Australian Federal Police (AFP): [2]

3.6 However, by omitting consideration of Russian organised crime from this discussion paper, the Committee is not taking issue with the view that Australian agencies must remain alert to the real possibility that Russian-based criminal groups may target Australia. The Committee notes that the Report of the Review of Commonwealth Law Enforcement Arrangements recommended that the NCA have 'a strategic and/or coordination role' in respect of, amongst other groups, 'Eastern Block Organised Crime Groups', and that the Government has accepted this recommendation

3.7 Although geographically part of Asia, the Lebanon is not normally considered 'Asian' in the context of discussion of Asian organised crime. Hence, the Committee's discussion paper does not cover the activities of organised Lebanese criminal groups in Australia, although the Committee notes that such groups have for many years been involved in drug trafficking into Australia. [3]

3.8 Organised crime groups of ethnic Koreans reportedly exist in the United States,[4] but there is nothing that the Committee is aware of to suggest they have established any presence in Australia.

3.9 The question of how best to define the term 'organised crime' has caused much debate over the years.[5] For the purposes of this discussion paper, the Committee does not consider it necessary to enter into this debate or to define organised crime in any rigorous way. The following definition used by the NCA will serve: 'For the purpose of describing the broader criminal environment, the NCA defines organised crime as a systematic and continuing conspiracy to commit serious offences'.[6]

3.10 The Committee recognises, however, that an important issue in assessing the threat from, and the impact of, Asian organised crime in Australia is the degree to which it is organised. One of the suggestions made in this discussion paper is that Asian organised crime, as it impacts on Australia at least, is considerably less organised than might be thought from an uncritical reading of media reports. The Committee considers that the following observation made in 1989 by Dr Grant Wardlaw is pertinent in this context:

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[1] See for example United States Senate, Subcommittee on Terrorims, Narcotics and International Operations of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Recent Developments in Transnational Crime Affecting U.S. Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy, Hearings, 21 April 1994 (US Gov. Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1994), p. 123 where Bill Olson, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Narcotics and a Fellow at the National Strategy Centre set out what he regarded as five major characteristics of international organised crime:

[2] Australian Federal Police, Annual Report 1992-93, p. 58. See also "Police follow drug trail to Russia", Canberra Times, 24 July 1993, p. 16.

[3] See Review of Commonwealth Law Enforcement Arrangements, February 1994, AGPS, Canberra, paras. 4.56 - 4.59 for a brief description. See also "Australia the main target for Lebanese drug exports", Australian, 29 March 1994 (reporting claim by Lebanese Interior Ministry referring to cannabis and cocaine, as well as heroin).

[4] See for example the evidence of the United States Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Robert S. Mueller, before the US Senate, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, Asian Organized Crime, Hearing, 6 November 1991 (US Gov. Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1992), p. 167:

[5] For two recent contributions see: P. Dickie and P. Wilson, "Defining Organised Crime: An Operational Perspective", Current Issues in Criminal Justice, vol. 4, no. 3, March 1993, p. 215; and D. Greaves and S. Pinto, "Redefining Organised Crime: Commentary on a Recent Paper by Phil Dickie and Paul Wilson", Current Issues in Criminal Justice, vol. 5, no. 2, November 1993, p. 218.

[6] National Crime Authority, Corporate Plan July 1993 - June 1996, AGPS, Canberra, 1993, p. 22.

[7] G. Wardlaw, "Conceptual Frameworks of Organised Crime Useful Tools or Academic Irrelevancies?", paper delivered at the Australian Institute of Criminology's Organised Crime Conference, Canberra, 5-7 September 1989, p. 4.


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