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  • Foreign worker exploitation targeted in multi-agency operation

    This is a joint media release from the Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and ACT Policing.

    Documents allegedly showing exploitation of foreign workers have been seized from an ACT home during a joint operation by ABF, ACT Policing, Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).

    The search warrant was executed as part of a joint investigation by the ABF and ATO as part of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT), which targets individuals and businesses suspected of using illegal debt evasion within the construction industry.

    Officers located identity and financial documents allegedly showing the employment of unlawful non-citizens and exploitation of foreign workers, as well as $82,000 in cash.

    The cash, located with the assistance of AFP detector dogs, was seized by ACT Policing and will form part of an ongoing investigation.

    ABF Commander Special Investigations Penny Spies said the diligent work sent a strong message to criminals that the ABF would continue to work side-by-side law enforcement partners to stamp out these practices.

    “Dishonest employers in the construction industry often pay workers in cash, meaning employees miss out on entitlements including superannuation. All workers deserve fair pay and fair treatment,” Commander Spies said.

    “We will continue to disrupt those who seek to exploit foreign workers here in Australia, and they will be brought to justice.

    “We will continue to target criminals who want to profit by engaging in visa and migration fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and foreign worker exploitation.”

    ATO Deputy Commissioner and SFCT Chief John Ford said that individuals who take part in financial crime activities are often complicit in larger criminal activities.

    “These criminals are motivated by financial gain and their activities rob the Australian public of revenue to support essential services such as health and education,” Mr Ford said.

    “This action demonstrates that the SFCT agencies will work together on operational activity that will ultimately bring criminals to account.”

    ACT Policing Criminal Investigations Detective acting Inspector Matt Innes said this type of joint operation proved highly effective once again.

    “The information sharing and joint response activity seen in this operation has once again disrupted those who seek to profit from illegal activities that they consider victimless,” Detective acting Inspector Innes said.

    “The reality is that the workers and the Australian people through unpaid taxation are the victims when this type of illegal activity occurs.”

    The SFCT is an ATO-led joint-agency taskforce. It brings together the knowledge, resources and experience of relevant law enforcement and regulatory agencies to identify and address the most serious and complex forms of financial crime.

    If you are aware of any suspicious or illegal immigration, visa, customs and trade activity, contact Link.

    For more information on the SFCT, visit or download the Serious Financial Crime infographic, to help recognise the warning signs of financial crime activities including the range of financial crime personas.

    Tax crime activities can be reported to the ATO online or by phoning 1800 060 062. All reports are anonymous.

    Last modified: 29 May 2023QC 72729