National Crime Authority
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (October 2013)|
The National Crime Authority (NCA) was an Australian law enforcement agency established in 1984, and was considered the Commonwealths leading law enforcement agency. In 2003, it was superseded by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC).
The NCA was set up in the wake of the Costigan Commission into tax evasion and organised crime. It was intended to lead a national law enforcement response to organised crime which could overcome the jurisdictional barriers of the Australian federal system. It had what was known as "extraordinary powers" which removed many of the barriers which prevented other enforcement organisations from being able to comprehensively investigate or prosecute. These barriers or sancuaries which were well known to the criminal world quickly dissipated and was replaced with anxiety and fear in the hearts of the criminals who realised that the system they had relied upon to protect them and their illicit business ventures, would in fact now reveal them.
The NCA was frequently and unfairly criticised for both misuse of these powers and a perceived lack of effectiveness, often due to the covert operations and extreme secrecy required as a direct result of the level of criminals being targeted, and the risk to the operatives and their families. The staff and operatives of the NCA were often reminded by the Chairman that; "we are dealing with the most evil, calculating and manipulative people who have significant financial resources and good reason to stop us in our work or harm us as individuals." This was sadly evident when the targeted killing of NCA Senior Investigator Det Sgt Geoffrey Bowen occurred on 2 March 1994 at the Adelaide office of the NCA. Det Sgt Bowen was killed by opening a specifically and personally addressed parcel bomb, with a force so severe that it blew out the brick wall of the building on the 12th floor. Det Sgt Bowen was the senior investigator on Operation Cerberus, an investigation into Italian organised crime in Australia. An NCA staff member also lost an eye and suffered severe burns to 40% of his body as a result of this incident. To date, no one has been convicted of this murder.
The role of the NCA was to essentially gather the intelligence surrounding a specific matter and then hand the matter across to either AFP, ATO or Customs, along with the assistance of the State Police to effect a strike on the known targets. For the reasons stated, the NCA operatives where never known or seen to the general public and the cudos for the success of the operation went to those in the public light of the media releases, generally the AFP or Customs. The NCA was in fact responsible for some of the Commonwealths largest ever drug hauls and breaking down of numerous criminal networks across Australia and overseas.
The fate of the NCA was sealed in 2002 when the then Chairman, Gary Crooke QC, started to publically contradict and argue with the then Prime Minister John Howard on many issues, but in particular, the issue of safe injecting rooms.