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Serious fraud in Australia and New Zealand

Media Release

27 March 2003

Joint media release from the Minister for Justice and Customs, the Hon Chris Ellison, the Australian Institute of Criminology and Pricewaterhouse Coopers

Fraud will continue to be a major crime concern for government, business and individuals in the 21st Century, according to the latest Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) report launched today by the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison.

The report Serious Fraud in Australia and New Zealand is the culmination of a study by the Australian Institute of Criminology and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Investigations and Forensic Services into 155 completed files from police and prosecution agencies in Australia and New Zealand.

AIC Director Adam Graycar said the findings provided important information on how and why serious fraud was perpetrated, how much money was at risk, who the offenders and victims were, and how courts dealt with the cases.

"The report shows that serious fraud represents a major challenge for business and professions," Dr Graycar said.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The most common type of fraud involved obtaining finance or credit by deception (21% of offence types) followed by fraud involving cheques (15%).
  • The 155 files examined involved recorded losses of $260.5 million of which only $13.5 million was recovered at the time of sentencing.
  • Identity-related fraud was evident in more than one third of cases (36% of files), with about 25 per cent of cases involving fictitious identities and 13 per cent involving stolen identities.
  • The most frequent way offenders disposed of their proceeds of crime was by purchasing luxurious goods and services such as motor vehicles or travel. The next biggest categories involved spending on gambling and personal living expenses. This reflected the fact that greed was the most prevalent motivation of offenders (27% of offenders) followed by gambling (16%).

Senator Ellison said the Commonwealth was keen to lead by example in developing prevention strategies.

"There is already excellent work being done by the National Fraud Desk at the Australian Crime Commission in coordinating intelligence and strategic information on fraud and its prevention," Senator Ellison said.

"The Government also introduced revised Fraud Control Guidelines last year which will assist the Commonwealth in gathering quantitative data to gauge the amount of fraud being perpetrated against its own agencies."

Senator Ellison encouraged all State and Territory agencies, as well as organisations in the private sector, to follow the Commonwealth's lead by introducing comprehensive measures of their own to enable the collection of accurate and comprehensive data throughout Australia.