More dodgy lawyers, accountants and tech experts than ever before are willing to take dirty dollars to help ­organised crime gangs, Crime Commission boss says.
More dodgy lawyers, accountants and tech experts than ever before are willing to take dirty dollars to help ­organised crime gangs, Crime Commission boss says.

‘Dodgy lawyers and IT professionals enabling criminal thugs’

More dodgy lawyers, accountants and tech experts than ever before are willing to take dirty dollars to help ­organised crime gangs, the new head of the NSW Crime Commission Michael Barnes has warned.

He said on Wednesday they have been the business brains behind a shadowy new home-grown encrypted phone network called Ciphr, set up after the crime commission helped smash an international operation selling uncrackable mobiles to drug gangs and bikies.

NSW Crime Commission Michael Barnes. Picture: Toby Zerna
NSW Crime Commission Michael Barnes. Picture: Toby Zerna

"It is quite clear that a significant number of professionals are willing to provide their services to organised crime," Mr Barnes said.

"You see the musclebound thugs with tattoos who beat each other up or shoot each other in the street and you wonder how it is that they are able to avoid detection while acquiring large property holdings.

"You come to suspect that they are receiving assistance from professionals who are willing to turn a blind eye to the source of the funds involved."

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Mr Barnes said there had always been dodgy lawyers like Michael Croke, 70, who was jailed in July for his role in a plot to retrieve more than $700,000 in drug money seized by police at the Hilton Hotel, but he said the corruption had become more insidious.

As organised crime becomes more sophisticated, so has the help they need to keep doing business.

Professionals are providing services for criminals ­including phoenixing companies, setting up companies overseas, moving money around the world, property developing, renting premises including homes and warehouses and generally doing the paperwork.

There are at least 18 organised crime gangs being monitored in Australia but between 6000 to 7000 serious crooks, according to the latest figures from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

Mr Barnes said lawyers had become adept at giving advice to criminals about how to get their so-called Letter of Assistance from NSW Police, the Australian Federal Police or the crime commission after their arrest which gives them a discount on any sentence for giving up their mates or revealing where the drugs are hidden.

"I would never criticise any lawyer for representing their client in court or assisting with a lawful transaction but I am concerned some may be about knowingly facilitating crime," he said.

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He said these people had betrayed their professional ethics and he questioned whether their professional oversight bodies were doing enough to rein them in.

Ciphr is among the new ­lucrative underworld businesses with criminals paying $2500 subscription every six months to use its specially-modified BlackBerry phones which, it is claimed, cannot be bugged or tracked.

It was set up in Australia to replace the infamous network run by Phantom Secure after its boss, Canadian Vincent Ramos, was jailed last year in the US.

A crime commission analyst was last month given an FBI award for helping smash the network.

"It seems to me that there are too many crooks getting too much assistance," Mr ­Barnes said.

Originally published as 'Dodgy lawyers and IT professionals are enabling criminal thugs'


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