Law enforcement agencies from four nations today launched a new taskforce to combat serious and organised crime operating in the Pacific region.
The Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime (TSOC) Pacific Taskforce will make it easier for member countries to jointly investigate and disrupt organised crime groups operating in the area, target groups using small craft to move illicit drugs through the region, share operational intelligence, and strengthen cooperation to conduct expanded and complex investigations.
Executive members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), New Zealand Police, Fiji Police Force and the Tonga Police Service signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Manly today to demonstrate their commitment to targeting the scourge of organised crime.
AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin hopes the agreement will have a strong deterrent effect and send a clear message that the Pacific is not a safe haven for criminals.
“The AFP and other Australian law enforcement agencies are already working closely with our Pacific neighbours. We have a proud history of working together to combat a broad range of transnational crimes, including drug trafficking, cybercrime and child exploitation,” Commissioner Colvin said.
“This agreement will see this cooperation go further and ensure the Pacific region is one that organised crime groups will find difficult to operate in.”
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush welcomed the four-nation taskforce to combat serious and organised crime in the region.
“In recent years there has been increasing evidence of cooperation between transnational networks and New Zealand criminals who are engaging in organised crime, manufacturing and distributing illicit drugs, as well as being involved in other serious crimes across NZ,” Commissioner Bush said.
“While they are almost certainly complicit in these types of transnational criminal activities, their direct level of involvement is often unclear, but the harm these crimes cause to those in our communities cannot be underestimated. We will be working diligently with the joint taskforce to identify overseas-based offenders to help bring them to justice.”
Fiji Police Force Deputy Commissioner Rusiate Tudravu said the signing of the agreement is a way forward in creating a safer Pacific for all.
“This MoU is a framework that will continue to enhance our capacity, capability and information sharing. This is a way forward in creating a safer Pacific as we guard our borders and look into the transnational crimes that are impacting our country and region,” Deputy Commissioner Tudravu said.
“The Fiji Police Force looks forward to working with other Pacific island countries and New Zealand and Australia to fight transnational serious and organised crime.”
Tonga Police Service Commissioner Steve Caldwell stated that the Tonga Police have initiated a drug taskforce and national strategy to combat illicit drugs.
“This arrangement will allow a stronger regional response to fight organised crime impacting on the Pacific,” Commissioner Caldwell said.
The goal of the TSOC Pacific Taskforce will be to:
- enhance information sharing between participants through the established Pacific Transnational Crime Network, the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre and respective Transnational Crime Units;
- investigate and disrupt transnational serious and organised crime operating from, through or impacting the participant countries;
- target organised crime entities or syndicates utilising small craft to move illicit drugs and facilitate other organised criminal activity;
- demonstrate the commitment of participants toward effective multi-national cooperation and effectiveness combating transnational organised crime; and
- strengthen cooperation to conduct expanded investigations on transnational organised crime groups operating within and between multiple countries.
The TSOC Pacific Taskforce initiative stems from the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police Meeting in Nauru in August 2018, where Police Commissioners from Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji and Australia agreed the establishment of a Joint Taskforce combating Organised Crime in the Pacific was essential and should begin with immediate effect.