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Economics References Committee
07/08/2020
Inquiry into foreign investment proposals

JERGA, Mr Stefan, Acting National Manager Criminal Assets Confiscation, Australian Federal Police

McCARTNEY, Mr Ian, Deputy Commissioner of Investigations, Australian Federal Police

RYAN, Mr Nigel, Assistant Commissioner Crime Command, Australian Federal Police

ACTING CHAIR ( Senator Kitching ): I now welcome representatives from the Australian Federal Police. Thank you for appearing before the committee today. Information on procedural rules governing public hearings and officers of the Commonwealth has been provided to witnesses and is available from the secretariat. I would also like to advise witnesses that answers to any questions on notice are to be sent to the secretariat by Wednesday 19 August 2020. I invite you to make a brief opening statement, should you wish to do so.

Mr McCartney : Thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee today. The AFP understands that a key focus of this inquiry is the extent to which the risk that foreign investment proposals are being used for money laundering. Money laundering is a serious crime that funds further crime, which directly threatens the safety of Australia and Australians. Money laundering is both a key enabler of organised crime groups and a serious crime in its own right. Particularly when significant criminal proceeds are moved into Australian assets, it is far from a victimless crime. AFP is currently focused on money-laundering organisations, which are highly organised and sophisticated crime groups that operate independently of, but service, traditional organised crime groups, including drug traffickers. The AFP works closely with foreign partners to target transnational economic crime, including money laundering, and to pursue criminal asset confiscation action where appropriate. One of our most significant domestic partners in this process and in this space is AUSTRAC.

The AFP has over $150 million in assets restrained linked to foreign offending or foreign persons. While the AFP continues to actively litigate many of these cases, restraint is the first step in ensuring that this money is removed from the criminal economy. In the specific context of the foreign investment framework, the AFP may be consulted by the FIRB as part of its screening of foreign investment proposals. The AFP's role is limited to providing relevant information that the AFP holds that may assist the FIRB in determining the suitability of an application. The AFP is not in a position to provide an opinion as to whether an individual foreign investment proposal would be contrary to the national interest. The AFP is one of several agencies that the FIRB may consult in relation to a foreign investment proposal. It is appropriate that the FIRB is able to seek information from multiple agencies in order to make a recommendation to the Treasurer on a foreign investment proposal. In relation to Operation Gethen, the AFP understands that the committee is interested in this operation in which over $20 million of property has been restrained by the AFP. Given that the matter is before the court, there will be limits on what can be said at this meeting in relation to this investigation.

In conclusion, the AFP will continue to disrupt transnational money-laundering groups and demonstrate that Australia is a hostile environment for criminals seeking to hide their illegally obtained assets.

ACTING CHAIR: Thank you for very much for your opening statement and for your time this afternoon. We very much appreciate it. Could you flesh out the risks to critical infrastructure with regard to foreign ownership?

Mr McCartney : Different agencies have appeared before this committee. They all look at this issue through a different lens. When you talk about foreign investment and impact on infrastructure, our core focus is identifying criminality. In terms of our work with the FIRB and with AUSTRAC, noting that a huge amount of legal funds flow into the country, there are at times illicit funds that flow into the country, so our focus is very much on working with our partner agencies to identify those illicit funds.

ACTING CHAIR: How will the changes that the Treasurer, Mr Frydenberg, announced in early June affect your work?

Mr McCartney : I will make some comment on that and then pass to Mr Jerga. Historically, the AFP has had a very productive working relationship with the FIRB. As I've noted in my opening statement, we're not a member of the FIRB, but we're consulted from time to time in terms of inquiries that the FIRB may want to make of the AFP in relation to foreign investment proposals. If we do hold information that we believe is relevant to the FIRB, we'll provide that information back. If we do believe that other agencies might hold information relevant to the request from the FIRB, we can and we do liaise with the FIRB to highlight that they may want to seek that information from other parties. In terms of context, in terms of the work that we do on a regular basis with the FIRB, in 2019-20, there were 216 requests that came into the AFP in relation to FIRB related inquiries. Obviously, as a matter of priority, we've actioned those requests and provided advice back. In terms of the recent changes in terms of the change in thresholds, I might pass to Mr Stefan Jerga to comment.

ACTING CHAIR: Just so you know, we had a very useful, very constructive private briefing with the FIRB, and there was discussion about the agencies whom they consult. Thank you, and I will pass to your colleagues.

Mr Jerga : Thank you, Senator. Since the more recent changes to the introduction of the zero-dollar threshold, we've seen a significant increase in the number of requests from the FIRB for information regarding AFP holdings. For the nine-month period from July to March, we had received a total of, say, 127 requests. In the three months thereafter, finishing at 30 June, there was a total of 89 requests. So, as a percentile, there was a significant increase. Almost all of those referrals relate to residential real estate, but, obviously, we consider other matters as well. That consideration, as the deputy said, is: what are the AFP's information holdings and are there any adverse indices rather than broader advice beyond that?

Senator PATRICK: Chair, can I ask a supplementary to that?

ACTING CHAIR: Certainly, Senator Patrick.

Senator PATRICK: This comes down to the function that you have. When the FIRB has an application before it, I presume at that point they notify you. I'm trying to understand the type of information you pass back. Is it of the type: 'This person is of interest to the police,' or 'We've never seen this director or this entity before'? What's the nature of the type of information that you would usefully provide to the FIRB?

Mr Jerga : I think in its broadest sense, we could describe the nature of what we provide as more around, say, criminal history type information.

Senator PATRICK: That is of the directors, I presume, as opposed to the procuring foreign entity? Is that right?

Mr Jerga : That's correct. Also, in terms of companies, we would review our holdings. At a practical level, obviously, we have the benefit, working closely with many other partners, of their information holdings as well, where we've exchanged information or we have access to those information holdings—so, anything from criminal history records. Often it might be that there's actually nothing there, unsurprisingly, but what we might have notice of are some suspicious matter records and, in that instance, the link to some of those companies or individuals and their banking, so we would refer those to FIRB. We wouldn't give FIRB that AUSTRAC info because it's being provided to us through AUSTRAC's own legal parameters and we're respecting those, but we would go back to the FIRB and say, 'In relation to your request, there are no adverse indices from an AFP perspective in regard to, say, criminal history, but you may wish to speak to AUSTRAC about these suspicious matter report reference numbers.' More generally, I was just looking at something in recent days, as an example of how we might cooperate, looking at, say, money-laundering principals and things like that. Where we can see that entities are relying heavily on trusts or company structures, or some of the ownership doesn't look that clear, we're not deep-diving into that, but, in trying to be helpful for our colleagues in the FIRB, we'll also maybe point out some, on the face of it, interesting aspects to the entities as they're structured. But ultimately it's a matter for FIRB to continue to consult with other agencies as well as they do.

Senator PATRICK: Chair, I don't have the call, but I have another question related to that. Is that okay?

ACTING CHAIR: Certainly.

Senator PATRICK: So you do that on receipt of an application. Do you ever do anything in respect of compliance from an FIRB perspective, where they may be conducting their compliance activities as to whether a company is meeting conditions or whether there's a concern that's been raised by someone about an ongoing investment?

Mr Jerga : Noting that there are some criminal penalties in the legislation, in the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act, if we were to receive a referral from the FIRB in relation to noncompliance, where they wanted us to look at criminal noncompliance, we would take a look at that.

Senator PATRICK: That doesn't happen very often?

Mr Jerga : Not that I can recall or that we have an awareness of. What we might find is that, where we're looking at certain assets from a criminal asset confiscation perspective, we will, depending on the circumstances, collaborate with the FIRB to try and deconflict some activity that they might be doing. It may actually be that, through their own knowledge of breaches, they are already looking at divestment orders, such that people have to sell in any event. The timing of that might be important from our perspective: we might want to actually confiscate the property for other criminality. I'm not saying that noncompliance with the FIRB orders is necessarily criminality. In terms of the new proposed legislation, the FATA legislation, I note that it looks like there will be criminal sanctions up to 10 years for serious breaches. That might increase, I think, some of those pure referrals to the AFP for noncompliance.

Mr Ryan : If I can assist: in the last 12 months, there have been no referrals of breaches of the FATA from Treasury or the ATO.

Senator PATRICK: Did you say eight?

Mr Ryan : Zero.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you. I didn't hear. Thank you, Chair. You can come back to me later.

ACTING CHAIR: I understand Senator Whish-Wilson is trying to connect, but there may be some problems in doing that.

Senator O'NEILL: Chair, can I ask a question following up one from Senator Patrick?

ACTING CHAIR: Yes, certainly.

Senator O'NEILL: One of the concerns I have expressed in the course of the day is what has been revealed to this committee, when we've asked question on notice of Treasury, in terms of an absence of data. You've just given Senator Patrick evidence that there have been no referrals for you to consider in the last financial year. Is that correct?

Mr Ryan : That's correct.

Senator O'NEILL: How many years do we have to go back before we find a referral?

Mr Ryan : We don't have any data on that, but, anecdotally, there have been no referrals in the last three to five years.

Senator O'NEILL: Are we relying on anecdote because there is no record keeping about these matters?

Mr Ryan : That's something we'd have to take on notice.

Senator PATRICK: Can I just clarify: are we talking about criminality flowing from a breach when we talk about referrals? Obviously, there are instances where you're providing information in relation to an application. I just want to clarify what we're talking about.

Mr Jerga : That's correct. It would be where at some juncture we've referred back to FIRB potential criminality in terms of noncompliance with FIRB's conditions.

Senator PATRICK: So there are lots of those; it's just that you're not being used to—

Mr Jerga : We regularly receive requests where FIRB receive notice under their legislation of a foreign national wanting to buy real estate or a commercial venture or something more significant. We would be asked for the AFP's records in relation to those entities, individuals and companies. That's a separate issue to any referrals of potential criminal breaches to the AFP.

Senator PATRICK: Thank you. I was a bit confused, but you've clarified that.

ACTING CHAIR: Does that response clarify your questions as well, Senator O'Neill?

Senator O'NEILL: Yes, it does. Thank you.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I have some questions around money laundering and anti-money-laundering laws. You may be aware that the committee is looking at a case study that centres around Operation Gethen, which, I understand, the AFP made public comments about on 1 November last year. Those public comments were made by Kate Ferry, the AFP's Criminal Assets and Confiscation Taskforce detective superintendent. She said that these kinds of things 'impact our whole community by eroding the level playing field for Australian homebuyers and small-business owners'. I understand the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, also said:

It is everyday Australians who ultimately suffer when these significant proceeds of crime make their way into our country.

I understand that there are sensitivities around what you can and can't say. It was reported that this bust at Musselroe Bay and attached Melbourne real estate to the value of $23 million happened in cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. Can you comment on the origination of this bust? When did you first get the information that led you to prosecute?

Mr Jerga : That's correct; we have made public comments through our superintendent, Kate Ferry. We issued a media release at the time. On 12 July 2017, our colleagues at the Chinese Ministry of Public Security—the Chinese police—sought assistance from the AFP in tracing assets related to alleged fraud and offending in China. I can answer a few questions on that. Do you have some specific questions in mind?

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I presume you have lots of international partners you work with in cooperation. Is it common for a foreign jurisdiction to give you information to help you follow up the use of illicit crime proceeds?

Mr Jerga : Absolutely. In our opening statement, Mr McCartney noted that we presently have at least $150 million in restrained assets linked to either foreign offending or foreign persons. In terms of transnational crime, those assets that we're chasing, it's a global challenge. We're very hooked up with partners all across the world—they help us, we help them. That's the way we're going to make some inroads.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I just want to be clear that the Chinese—I didn't write down the full name of the ministry you mentioned there.

Mr Jerga : The Ministry of Public Security, the MPS—the Chinese police.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: So this investigation presumably went on for over two years before you made it public; is that correct?

Mr Jerga : We weren't necessarily investigating them criminally. In fact the origins of this go back to 2012, in China. Indeed, the Chinese authorities themselves were only notified in March 2017 by a company who felt aggrieved that a contract hadn't been honoured; the five-year difference there was a five-year period in which to settle on a real estate venture in China. So, in that regard, the Chinese authorities only received notification themselves in March 2017, and I think they were investigating by April. In July we received a request for assistance in terms of information, where they had identified that these persons of interest and assets were now in Australia. A lot of the information we received backwards and forwards was on a police-to-police basis rather than a mutual assistance basis. As you can appreciate, $23 million worth of assets and where they were ultimately all found—I think our officers moved pretty fast, with some good results to date.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Absolutely; congratulations on what has happened. What I'm interested in from here is that you've seized assets from fraudulently obtained funds. What happens from here, and does any of the task force in Australia more broadly investigate the corporate veil—the company structures that were used to launder this money? Confiscating the assets is the first thing you do, but what's the next step?

Mr Jerga : Sometimes criminal matters may proceed in parallel with or even after we do our criminal asset confiscation work—which, despite the name, is actually civil litigation, when all is said and done. From our perspective, in this instance we've been pursuing the assets. One of the predicate offences we are relying upon for our own criminal asset proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act is the foreign offending in China—the contract fraud. Under the Commonwealth Proceeds of Crime Act we can hook our matters onto foreign indictable offences, which we have done here in one instance. In terms of intentions to do criminal proceedings, that's for others to speak about. In terms of the corporate veil, I think the entities and the people involved in money flows and all that—through working very closely with our partners at AUSTRAC, that's all been worked through. I was going to say it's clear enough; it's complex. But ultimately it is that which we've been able to find.

I know you're interested in this matter, Senator—understandably, given it's your home state. It's interesting, though, that some of these big companies have put quite a sophisticated veneer in front of themselves. To any facilitators—whether it be lawyers or real estate agents or others in Australia—back in 2012, when these properties were acquired, five years before the local company in China that felt aggrieved even reported it, on the face of it there was nothing noticeable. No alarm bells would have been ringing, or things like that. It was quite sophisticated. But I'm not saying it's always that way.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: That was where I was going to go with my next questions. I understand it is sophisticated. Having worked on this area myself federally for the last eight years, I understand that the corporate veil can be very difficult to break through. I suppose what I was thinking and what other Tasmanians and Australians were thinking when we read this article was, 'Just how much more of this stuff is going on?' I know the Financial Action Task Force estimated that there was about $1 billion a year in laundered money through Australian real estate. Does the Federal Police have any estimates, your own estimates, as to the extent of the illicit funds being washed through Australian real estate?

Mr Jerga : No, we don't. As you can appreciate, through our Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce, we're following assets linked to illicit profits. So, in that regard, we're probably dealing with a very small snapshot of the overall legitimate and illegitimate economy and movement of money. I note that our colleagues at AUSTRAC who preceded us do reports from time to time on these sorts of issues, and they're obviously best placed, I think, to answer that query.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: To be honest, I didn't feel like I got a strong answer from them as to where the investigations would go, for example, into the accountant who'd been publicly named to have been involved in setting up some of the corporate structures. I think one of the lawyers who was involved is dead. I'm interested in, just theoretically, when you get these kinds of busts, whether those gatekeepers, if I could call them that—it's a technical term—are investigated in any way.

Mr McCartney : Obviously, with that case—and Mr Jerga has provided some information—there's some information we can provide but some we can't. I mean, it's on the public record. But what we find is that—and particularly the work that Mr Jerga does for the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce—when we identify illicit funds that are flowing through solicitors' trust accounts, accountants and real estate agents, in the majority of cases, those individuals are unwitting. So, as Mr Jerga has noted, the veneer, in terms of the funds being presented—they're presented in a completely normal manner that wouldn't at times arouse suspicion unless there are other pieces of information that may assist.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I could understand that perhaps from the real estate agent's point of view, but you're saying that, for the lawyers and the accountants setting up these structures, some of them may not be aware that laundered money is being used.

Mr Jerga : Look, even in the real estate context, unless somebody is bold enough to put a pile of cash on your desk and say, 'I want to buy the property with cash,' a lot of other indicators might not be that obvious. One thing, just in terms of our powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act, is that we do have the power to coercively examine parties. In civil proceedings, as I noted—that is, there's no right to silence. So where we restrain assets and we're interested in answers from professional facilitators, whether there's any suggestion of any wrongdoing by them or otherwise, we will bring them in for examination and ask questions. That's a very powerful tool for us in our proceedings.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Can I ask if you'll be doing that in relation to this particular case?

Mr Jerga : Look, this is probably at the point—and, hopefully, you've found me reasonably forthcoming to date—

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I have. Indeed.

Mr Jerga : This matter is very much going through the courts. There's plenty happening. I wouldn't like to say anything further.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: This bust was obviously high profile and made the news. Can you give the committee an indication of—we're just trying to get an idea of where, for example, the reporting requirements that we've got in place under the AML/CTF laws are working—whether there have been any other examples of money laundering through real estate that you have caught or been able to catch through the broader networks? You could provide this on notice.

Mr Jerga : We'll take that on notice.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Thank you. I think we've got some examples in Queensland and some other ones, but, yes, we’d be interested to look at the extent of it. Does the AFP have a position on current exemptions from anti-money-laundering laws that exempt gatekeepers such as real estate agents, accountants, brokers and lawyers?

Mr McCartney : We're on the record as supporting the principle of tranche 2 and obviously working with government, noting that there would be an intelligence dividend but there would also be a regulatory cost in terms of putting this in place. I think there are a couple of other aspects that are relevant. As stated by Mr Jerga, with cases involving solicitors, accountants and real estate agents, often by the time the funds reach those accounts they've been cleaned, or they have the appearance of being clean and so don't raise suspicion. If you were to ask us, from an operational perspective, what our key priority for money laundering is, it would be in terms of typologies and professional money-laundering syndicates. I don't know whether you saw the example from about a week ago. We were working with the PNG authorities and we successfully seized 500 kilograms of cocaine. If those drugs had have come into the country and profit had been made on those drugs, it would have been the role of professional money-laundering syndicates to launder that money. They wouldn't keep it in Australia. Predominantly they would move the money back offshore for the next purchase of drugs. It's a busy space for us to work in, but, in terms of our priority and in terms of dominant typologies, there is a huge focus on those professional money-laundering syndicates, which really impact on us from an organised crime perspective.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Using that example of the cocaine being sold and the money being laundered, how much work does the AFP do around poker machines being used to launder money and avoid tax across different jurisdictions? Have you been doing much investigation into the role of casinos and poker machines in laundering that kind of money?

Mr McCartney : I'll pass to Mr Jerga. Definitely in relation to casinos and junket tourism in casinos—and we're happy to provide this on notice.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: If you could, yes.

Mr McCartney : There have been a significant number of cases of professional money-laundering groups utilising casinos to move large amounts of illicit funds through different types of arrangements, but I'll pass to Mr Jerga to talk about pokies.

Mr Jerga : In terms of poker machines, I can't actually recall a specific example where notice of money laundering through pokies was part of some of our matters. Certainly, with respect to money flowing through casino, we've taken restraint action and seized millions of dollars. We've done that in recent years, seizing several million dollars in a Queensland matter. So casinos we probably have a bit more experience with or exposure to. States and territories also have their own proceeds-of-crime legislation, and poker machines and related money laundering through clubs would come within the purview of our state and territory counterparts.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I must admit I digressed a little bit with that question. It was just more out of interest, as I'd read something about that recently. My final question is in relation to Operation Gethen. Can you take on notice whether the AFP has received a briefing note from a community organisation in Tasmania called ECA, or East Coast Alliance. I understand they sent a brief to the Federal Police, AUSTRAC, ASIC and the ATO, outlining their concerns about the individuals involved in the operation of the company and the structures that were in place at that time—some of them are still involved in property development in Tasmania. The brief went into quite a bit of detail about those concerns. Could you take on notice whether you've received that and whether you're acting on it. Also, do you often get tip-offs from people bringing these kinds of things to your attention?

Mr Jerga : We will take that on notice. In relation to your latter point, our information sources, which lead to us conducting our proceeds work or even criminal investigations, come from domestic and oversees partners, but we'd always welcome tip-offs from members of the public and the community, if they have knowledge of suspected wrongdoing and criminality in this space.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Thank you very much.

Senator PATRICK: I have a couple of questions, going back to interaction with the FIRB. You mentioned that you treat requests from the FIRB with a high priority. I wonder how you factor into your FTE calculations the demand for assistance from the FIRB. Is it the case that a FIRB application comes in and diverts activities away from other criminal investigations, or do you have an allocation of people that are set aside to do this work?

Mr Jerga : Our Criminal Assets Confiscation area is the AFP area that receives these requests. It's not because it's particular to our work; it's just where the administrative function is. It could sit elsewhere. I think it's a single officer—as I understand it, it's our team leader here in Canberra—who deals with those requests. Obviously there have been a few more recently, but, in the big scheme of things, this is not taking up a lot of FTE or even one FTE. Given our focus on criminal history checks and some obvious information holdings we might have, it's often pulled in in a pretty quick fashion.

Senator PATRICK: It's on the record that FIRB are increasing their compliance capabilities, and you've mentioned in your testimony that there are new criminal sanctions that could come into law in the future. What do you see as being the future needs in being able to respond to the FIRB?

Mr Jerga : Even if we were to get the occasional referral from FIRB for criminal sanction or investigation—others can better speak to that—I think that would be a reasonably modest impost on our resourcing.

Senator O'NEILL: You may be aware of some of my questioning of the Treasury department, in the course of this inquiry, about Chow Tak Fook's purchase of Alinta Energy. We've spoken a little bit about money laundering, character tests and people not being allowed to invest in Australia. Did the AFP assist Treasury in analysing Dr Henry Cheng's suitability and character as a person fit to invest in Australia? Were you aware of his business connections with the Ho family, who failed the national interest test? What's your interaction with Treasury on these matters?

Mr Jerga : We would need to take that specific example on notice.

Senator O'NEILL: You weren't aware of that matter when you came to the hearing today?

Mr Jerga : As we noted earlier, we receive many hundreds of requests. That is not one that I'm specifically aware of. Others in the organisation will be able to tell us the answer to your question, if we could take that on notice.

Senator O'NEILL: If I had sufficient time to do more research, would it be possible for me to find gaps between the AFP, Treasury and other entities that are engaged in supposedly creating the protective net for Australians in the prevention phase?

Are you confident that your agencies, the agencies responsible for Australia's national security, are sufficiently integrated to be conscious of the sorts of risks I've just described? Or will there be gaps? Will other people have slipped through?

Mr McCartney : As I noted in my opening statement, our working relationship with AUSTRAC is hand in glove. We have AFP officers seconded into AUSTRAC and AUSTRAC officers seconded into the AFP. It is very much a seamless approach and very much a whole-of-government approach, particularly when it comes to money laundering. We have agencies like the ACIC and the Australian Taxation Office, and also have our state and territory partners—

Senator O'NEILL: What about the Treasurer's department, with the people who undertake these assessments and make recommendations to and for the Foreign Investment Review Board, who then give them to the Treasurer to tick off? How intimately are you involved with Treasury?

Mr McCartney : We're not part of FIRB and we don't sit within Treasury. From our perspective, our role is an advisory role. Once referrals are made into the AFP in terms of requests for information they're addressed promptly and that information is provided back into the FIRB arrangements.

Senator O'NEILL: The government put out a document in June, called Foreign investment reforms June 2020. It has a commitment from the government to provide draft legislation. Were you consulted as part of the announced reforms?

Mr McCartney : To ensure that we're providing a full and accurate response, we might just take that question on notice and come back to you.

Senator O'NEILL: Have you been engaged in the development of any legislation?

Mr McCartney : We've been engaged in working closely with Home Affairs in relation to improvements to the money-laundering legislation. We have identified opportunities for improvements within that regime. That's an ongoing discussion with the Department of Home Affairs. We're more than happy to provide what our recommendations are on those issues to this committee.

Senator O'NEILL: I think that's in a separate piece of legislation. This is particularly about the foreign investment reforms.

Mr McCartney : Well take on notice our engagement in that piece of legislation.

Senator O'NEILL: I'll just ask about your integration with other forces around the country. How do you work with them in matters of foreign investment? And what is your engagement with them, to have a national view? Are they engaged?

Mr McCartney : I think the majority of that would happen at the Canberra level; obviously, working with agencies such as AUSTRAC and ACIC. I might just pass to Stefan for the CAC construct and how we work with those agencies.

Mr Jerga : Certainly within the CAC side of things, we work closely with state and territory partners—indeed, just like our criminal investigation teams work very closely with state and territory partners. From a FIRB perspective: those sorts of touchpoints are more likely through our information holdings and our answers back to the FIRB—we may well have more access in the ordinary course to the information holdings of our state and territory colleagues. In that regard it would be a pooled, collective effort in the response that goes through. We are the conduit in that regard.

Senator O'NEILL: Thank you. Do you have anything to do with character assessments, when people are determined a fit or not fit person for the national interest test?

Mr McCartney : I believe that our only role would be when we receive a request from a relevant agency, similar to the requests we receive from the FIRB, for information we may hold.

Mr Jerga : In terms of whether we ever get involved in looking at national interest issues or whether we would ever say, 'We have no objections or no concerns,' that's just not a space that we occupy or want to be involved in. Again, ours is really just to ask, 'Are there any adverse indicators or findings in our intelligence and law enforcement holdings relevant to companies or individuals within that relevant FIRB request?'

Senator O'NEILL: If money laundering through gambling were part of the reason that Mr Ho was not acceptable and didn't meet the national interest test, does it concern you that Dr Henry Chen's links to the Ho family weren't sufficient to prevent him from being able to purchase Alinta Energy through his company Chow Tai Fook?

Mr McCartney : As we said, we'll take that on notice so we can provide an accurate and fulsome response to the committee.

Senator O'NEILL: But it doesn't jump out to you as something that you had intimate involvement with?

Mr McCartney : We're not fully aware of the circumstances and the facts, and, again, to be fulsome and accurate, we'd like to review our engagement with the firm and provide that response back to the committee.

Senator O'NEILL: I'm concerned that, as there are resources that are so disparate, with no coordinating agency and no statutory authority or power to act in concert, there's much that has been missed. Thank you very much for your answers.

ACTING CHAIR: We are slightly over time. We might leave it there. I'd like to thank the Australian Federal Police for their time this afternoon. The secretariat may be in contact with you in relation to organising a private briefing. Thank you very much for appearing as witnesses today. Thank you for all of the other work that you do for the Australian people.