From investigating the Bali bombings to busting a major heroin ring in Fiji, the AFP’s new Assistant Commissioner is no stranger to policing hardened criminals.
From investigating the Bali bombings to busting a major heroin ring in Fiji, the AFP’s new Assistant Commissioner is no stranger to policing hardened criminals.

How top cop will tackle the nation’s darkest crimes

The Australian Federal Police's new top cop in Victoria cut his teeth in the war on drugs nearly 20 years ago.

Temporarily sworn in as a member of the Fiji police force, he led a team trying to bring down a major international drug syndicate in the South Pacific.

Fast-forward two decades and Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles, recently handed the reins in the AFP's Melbourne HQ, says the threats to law and order remain the same.

Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles pictured talking to media in Fiji.
Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles pictured talking to media in Fiji.

Powerful drug cartels, many of which call the shots from their bases in southeast Asia, are still making millions of dollars from shipping and flying narcotics into Australia.

They get the drugs into the country, often using outlaw motorcycle gangs to distribute their illicit substances on the streets.

Giles became a member of the AFP 33 years ago. He started out, as most federal police recruits do, pounding the streets of Canberra.

Since then his career has taken him on different postings to Queensland, Fiji, Malaysia, Western Australia, the Solomon Islands, Indonesia and most recently Papua New Guinea.

He has now returned to Melbourne, after a brief stint in 2014-15, when the spectre of Islamic extremism emerged in the state following a violent attack on two police officers by radicalised teen Numan Haider at Endeavour Hills police station.

Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles during a visit to Indonesia with Julia Gillard.
Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles during a visit to Indonesia with Julia Gillard.

The officers were injured but survived. Haider, 18, was shot dead.

Commissioner Reece Kershaw, who took over as the head of the AFP in October last year, has installed assistant commissioners in different regions across Australia, aiming to allow key decisions to be made more quickly than before on the ground.

Giles' key aims will be counter terrorism, transnational and serious organised crime, battling child exploitation, fraud, anti-corruption and cyber security.

A relatively new task will also be to assist the country's domestic spy agency in battling foreign interference.

Authorities are reluctant to name countries, but when they talk about combating foreign interference, they are talking about China.

Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles.
Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles.

Giles is a veteran crime fighter who played a key role in investigating the Malaysian connections involved in the Bali bombings in 2005 and was living at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Jakarta when it was attacked by a suicide bomber in 2009.

Speaking to the Herald Sun, Giles said his experience investigating a drug cartel as part of "Operation Avian/Logrunner" in Fiji in 2000 taught him a lot - not least the importance of working together with other agencies, something he will be doing lots of in Victoria.

"I was lucky enough to become involved in an operation out of Fiji," he says.

"Operation Avian/ Logrunner was the first time I had ever been out of Australia. I was running what I guess was one of the drug strike teams back in those days.

"All the intelligence suggested there was a stockpile of heroin in Fiji."

And so Giles was dispatched.

"It was in the aftermath of a coup," he said.

"There were curfews and military checkpoints everywhere. Our job was to go out and find the heroin that was stockpiled out there and assist the Fiji Police Force arrest those involved.

"In terms of my direct exposure to transnational and serious organised crime, that was the turning point.

"The AFP worked with Fiji police, Canadian police, US DEA, NZ police.

"We brokered a deal with the acting commissioner of the Fiji police to operate out there ... We ended up finding those drugs and it was a successful operation. That got me more and more interested in the international side of the house."

Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles on his first Fiji job.
Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles on his first Fiji job.

Giles and his team seized 357kg of heroin, a bust which made the careers of several officers involved.

"You probably wouldn't get to do those sort of things today. That was back in 2000. Not that you did things wrong but you did things a lot more swiftly based on personalities and relationships."

Giles is keen to keen to build on the AFP's close working relationship with Victoria Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

"I'll bring those experiences to this command," he said.

"It revolves around relationships."

Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles with RPNGC colleagues in 2018 at Port Moresby.
Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles with RPNGC colleagues in 2018 at Port Moresby.

He is under no illusions about the work it will take to bring down the top targets bringing drugs into Australia.

"Several of the principal targets have taken themselves offshore to try and escape Australian law enforcement," he said.

"In Dubai, UAE, and the like - go and actually target them offshore.

"Australia is a destination country. Yes, we make some meth, and grow a bit of cannabis but at the end of the day it is principally manufactured elsewhere and brought here.

"Taking that fight against transnational crime offshore, working with state and federal partners onshore and international partners, is where it needs to be.

"It has been successful in the past but it can be more successful in the future."

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david.hurley@news.com.au

 

 

 

 

Originally published as How top cop will tackle the nation's darkest crimes


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