Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Asian Crime Down Under

The below article - undated - was written by Sergeant Michael Watson of the Australian Federal Police.  The AFP has a fine reputation  and Mike is one of the best cops on the planet.

A Brief Overview of Asian Crime in Australia
Michael G. Watson

Australia is a federation of six states and two territories.  It has a population of some nineteen million, the majority of who live around the coastline.  The major city is Sydney, with a population of approximately four and one half million, closely followed by the second major city, Melbourne, with approximately four million.  The countries population is multi-ethnic, a large proportion of whom are immigrants.  Included in this population are many persons from East and Southeast Asia.  As with all societies the majority of these people are law-abiding citizens who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace and harmony.  Unfortunately, as with all ethnic groups, there are, amongst this law-abiding majority, a small proportion of a criminal bent.  It is with this small minority that we are concerned.

Of those immigrants from East Asia, the largest group is the ethnic Chinese.  They have been in Australia since the mid-1800’s, when they first arrived as laborers and shepherds.  Later, with the discovery of gold, there were further arrivals who came seeking their fortunes on the gold fields.  As in the United States and Canada there was, ultimately, a rise in anti-Chinese sentiment that saw immigration curtailed.  Most Australian cities developed areas, commonly referred to as Chinatown, where many Chinese resided.  Until the 1970’s, when Chinese criminals involvement in heroin trafficking became known, these communities had been seen as crime free areas and were thus ignored by both law enforcement agencies and government.

Chinese criminals in Australia are involved in various activities.  These include:

·               narcotics trafficking, principally heroin;
·               extortion of Chinese owned and operated stores and restaurants;
·               robbery, with victims including overseas Chinese students studying in Australia;
·               loan sharking;
·               prostitution;
·               illegal gambling, although this has declined following the opening of the Sydney Harbor Casino;
·               credit card fraud;
·               human smuggling; and
·               the protection/promotion of Chinese entertainers from Hong Kong and Taiwan performing in Australia.

There are a number of groups of organized ethnic Chinese criminals in Australia.  These groups claim to belong to various Triad Societies including the Sun Yee On, the 14K (both Ngai and Mui factions), the Wo Shing Wo, the Wo On Lok and the Wo Hop To.  There are also others claiming to be Big Circle Gang members.  Unlike organized Chinese criminals in other countries, such as the United States and Canada, those in Australia often change groups.  In addition to those ethnic Chinese criminals who are members of organized groups there are also many others who are independent entrepreneurs.

Are these organized criminal groups Triad Societies and are their members triads?  There are two schools of thought on this matter, with one school saying yes and the other saying no.  Both schools are able to produce convincing evidence to support their chosen position.  It has been said that the truth probably lies somewhere in between.  I would argue that the ethnic Chinese organized crime groups are not Triad Societies, although this is not to deny that some members may be initiated triads or have close ties to Triad Societies in Hong Kong.  It is noticeable that when senior Triad office bearers from Hong Kong visit Australia they are wined and dined by the members of the local organized criminal groups.

Prior to the end of the Vietnam War there were few Vietnamese in Australia.  Those that were there were diplomats, military personnel or students.  Things changed dramatically after April 1975, which saw an influx of refugees, commonly known as the “boat people”, which continued for a number of years.  More people, who came as immigrants, subsequently followed these refugees.  All these new arrivals, both refugees and immigrants, included both ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese Vietnamese.  As with the ethnic Chinese there were, amongst the many law-abiding people, criminals and those of a criminal propensity.  No distinction will be made here, when referring to Vietnamese criminals, between those who are ethnic Vietnamese and those who are Chinese Vietnamese.

Vietnamese organized crime groups, many family based, are involved in narcotics trafficking including the importation and distribution of heroin.  In many instances they control the distribution down to, and including, the street level.  Vietnamese criminals are also involved in illegal gambling, although this has declined following the opening of the Sydney Harbor Casino, loan sharking and prostitution.

Besides organized crime Vietnamese are also involved in street gangs.  These gangs are involved in a number of activities including:

·               street level drug distribution;
·               extortion of shops and restaurants;
·               home invasions, including kidnapping;
·               robbery;
·               assault; and
·               motor vehicle theft.

There are a small number of Cambodians, both ethnic Cambodians and Chinese Cambodians residing in Australia.  Organized Cambodian criminals are involved in small-scale heroin importations.  Cambodian street gang members are involved in a number of offences including:
·               street level drug distribution;
·               extortion of shops and restaurants;
·               motor vehicle theft; and
·               assault.

The number of Laotians in Australia is small.  Street gang members of this ethnicity are involved in street level drug distribution.

In recent years Australia has received an increasing number of migrants from Korea.  Members of the Korean organized criminal fraternity are involved in:

·               extortion of restaurants and karaoke bars;
·               extortion of Korean students studying in Australia; and
·               loan sharking.  Often, when the debtor is a female, she is forced into prostitution to pay off her debt.

A well organized group of Koreans was arrested in Sydney, following their breaking into a number of non-Asian owned houses, in affluent suburbs, and stealing property.  Following their arrest it was established that they had arrived in Australia on tourist visas to conduct their operation.

There is, to date, and notwithstanding numerous allegations to the contrary, no evidence to indicate organized criminal activity by the Japanese Yakuza, also known as the Boryokudan, in Australia.  It would appear that the number of Japanese residing in the country is too small to support it.  This is not to say that Japanese criminals have not visited Australia.  A number of Yakuza members have been deported for immigration offences i.e. failing to declare their criminal convictions.  There have been reports of the coercion of Japanese businesses, including tour companies and tourist shops, although no evidence has been found to substantiate these claims.  Likewise, claims that they have heavily invested their ill-gotten gains in Queensland real estate, have not been substantiated.  An interesting aside is the recent conviction, in Queensland, of the wife of an alleged retired upper level Yakuza member, for his murder.

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