A man from regional Victoria has been charged with exit trafficking and blackmail offences, after an AFP human trafficking investigation.
On 24 February 2022, the AFP launched Operation Shepherd after receiving a report from a woman who alleged she had been exited from Australia by her then-husband, 46, and told she could not return to Australia.
Police will allege the woman’s husband deceived her into travelling overseas in mid-2021.
While overseas, the woman allegedly received a series of text messages from her husband informing her that he was divorcing her and she was not permitted to return to Australia.
The woman allegedly had no indication when she departed Australia that the man wished to end their marriage.
In December 2021 the alleged victim managed to fund her return to Australia. When she returned to the home she had shared with her husband, she allegedly found all of her belongings had been removed.
Police will allege after the woman had returned the man tried to blackmail her by sending her messages demanding money for visa costs and threatening to have her deported if she did not comply.
On 17 March, 2022 the AFP Human Trafficking Team executed search warrants at the man’s home and workplace.
On 15 May, 2023 the AFP charged the man by summons, with:
- Exit Trafficking, contrary to section 271.2(1A) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth); and
- Blackmail, contrary to section 87(1) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).
The maximum penalty for these offences is 12 years’ imprisonment (exit trafficking) and 10 years’ imprisonment (blackmail).
The accused will next face the Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on 1 August, 2023.
AFP Detective Superintendent Simone Butcher said it was the second time the AFP had laid exit trafficking charges in Victoria.
“Exit trafficking can involve a person using coercion, deception or a threat, to organise or facilitate another to leave Australia” Det-Supt Butcher said.
“No one has the right to force or deceive anyone to leave Australia, or to prevent them from returning against their will. No one has the right to ‘cancel’ another person’s visa, including the visa sponsor.”
Det-Supt Butcher said the AFP was committed to the wellbeing and protection of human trafficking victims.
“We want victims to know the AFP is here to help them and that their safety and wellbeing is our primary concern when we are investigating these matters,” she said.
“These investigations are handled with compassion and great care. There is a dedicated support program specifically tailored for victims of human trafficking offences. The AFP can refer victims for support and will continue to work with our partners across the sector, including not-for-profit organisations.”
Det-Supt Butcher urged the community to learn the signs and indicators of human trafficking and contact the AFP if they had any concerns.
“We are calling on the community to help bring these often hidden crimes out of the shadows,” Det-Supt Butcher said.
“Everyone can help us by understanding and talking about the signs of human trafficking and raising the alarm if something is not right.”
The AFP is the lead Australian investigative agency for all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, contact the AFP on 131 237.