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Australian requests to foreign countries

This department is responsible for making requests to foreign countries for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of criminal offences, or in related proceedings.

The flowchart below provides an overview of the general process of making a mutual assistance request to a foreign country.

Making a request

Before making a mutual assistance request you should consider the alternatives to mutual assistance.

Certain types of assistance cannot be obtained through informal means. In these cases, it may be necessary to make a mutual assistance request.

In general, a mutual assistance request will be required where:

  • the assistance sought requires the exercise of coercive powers (such as executing a search warrant)
  • the requested country requires that a mutual assistance request be made the evidence is sought to be admitted in an Australian court under the Foreign Evidence Act 1994 (Cth).

Types of assistance

Australia can request a broad range of assistance from other countries.

This assistance includes:

  • executing search warrants
  • production of documents
  • provision of material lawfully obtained by foreign law enforcement authorities
  • taking evidence from witnesses
  • registering or otherwise enforcing proceeds of crime orders.

Mutual assistance process

The flowchart above provides a general overview of the process of making a mutual assistance request to a foreign country.

As a first step you should contact the Central Authority to discuss making a mutual assistance request and to receive a copy of the mutual assistance request questionnaire.

Making a request for internet records

In the digital age, internet data is increasingly important in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences. Internet service providers (ISPs) are often willing to provide subscriber and internet protocol log data on an intelligence basis. However, ISPs generally require a mutual assistance request in order to provide content data.

Before a mutual assistance request can be made, you must ensure that the relevant data is still in existence. A preservation request takes a snap-shot of data related to a particular account at the time the preservation takes effect. Preservation requests generally last for 90 or 180 days, depending on the ISP.

The law enforcement or prosecution agency is responsible for making and maintaining the preservation request.

Timeframes

The Attorney-General’s Department liaises with central authorities in other countries about the progress of mutual assistance requests.

The time taken to complete a mutual assistance request will vary depending on the following factors:

  • the type of assistance requested
  • the laws and processes for mutual assistance in the other country
  • any treaty requirements.

The timeframe can vary from a few days or weeks in very urgent cases to several months or years in cases which require the collection of extensive material, or which relate to complex investigations.

Confidentiality

As mutual assistance requests are made in the context of ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions, it is the policy of the Australian Government not to disclose information about Australia’s mutual assistance requests.