Pubdate: Mon, 31 Aug 1998
Source: Advertiser, The (Australia)
Contact:  Mark Steene


TELEPHONE taps have become a key factor in the fight against drug
traffickers, new figures show.

Federal judges issued 21 phone-tap warrants to SA police targeting drug
traffickers in 1996-97 - and 21 traffickers were convicted in South
Australian courts in the same year.

Under the Telecommunications (Interception) Act, only eligible Federal Court
and Family Court judges can grant warrants for telephone taps on application
from the various crime-fighting agencies, including the SA police.

The figures, issued by the federal Attorney-General's office, show law
enforcers operating in SA were granted 32 warrants overall in 1996-97 - down
from 41 in each of the two previous years.

Eight of the warrants were issued in relation to murder investigations and
three in relation to organised crime.

Overall, the taps resulted in 23 arrests and 22 convictions.

SA police spent $609,424 investigating offences where taps were involved -
at an average cost of $19,044 for each case.

Nationwide, 638 warrants were issued, resulting in 493 arrests.

The Australian Federal Police used 188 of them, compared to 233 the previous

A total of 626 prosecutions and 360 convictions resulted from the 493
arrests, although convictions and prosecutions may not arise from arrests
made in the same year.

Warrants taken out by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation for
national security offences were not included in the report.

Nationally, drug trafficking and narcotics offences were the basis for the
biggest category of warrants - 197 were issued for investigating drug
trafficking and 174 for narcotics offences.

Drug trafficking accounted for 260 prosecutions and 201 convictions

Murder investigations were the basis for 102 warrants, serious personal
injury 52, bribery or corruption 37, serious loss of revenue 31, organised
crime 23, serious fraud and computer offences 16 each, kidnapping nine,
special investigations seven, loss of life and money laundering four each,
and serious property damage one.

Phone tapping cost $10.3 million in 1996-97, down from $10.5 million in
1995-96 and $12.1 million in 1994-95.

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Checked-by: Rolf Ernst