UniSA Accountancy graduate leads MH17 investigation for AFP

You never know where your UniSA degree will lead you

Stephen Dametto

Stephen Dametto has taken his UniSA degree to the world after recently being appointed as the Senior Investigating Officer leading the Australian contingent into the Malaysian Airlines investigation (MH17) in The Hague.

Stephen studied a Bachelor of Accountancy (class of 1995) and a Diploma of Property (class of 1996) at the University of South Australia.

“When I commenced my degree in 1991 UniSA had a lot of energy as it had just become the University of South Australia. Its accountancy program was considered one of the best in SA and the place was buzzing.

“Once I completed my studies I spent three years working as an accountant at a mid-tier firm in Adelaide and completed the Chartered Accountant program. At the time I became disenfranchised with pure accountancy and started looking at other options. I took a chance and joined the AFP (Australian Federal Police).”

From there Detective Superintendent Stephen Dametto’s life in the AFP has taken him to the frontline of some of the world's biggest issues and events. When the Malaysian Airlines disaster (MH17) occurred, Stephen was sent to Ukraine as the Police Forward Commander and was responsible for setting up the Investigations Team with representatives from Ukraine, Netherlands and Australia. His vital work with the MH17 investigation is continuing. Stephen is currently living in The Hague and leading the Australian contingent into the MH17 investigation as the Senior Investigating Officer.

“The lives of 38 Australian citizens and residents – who were among 298 passengers and crew on board - were lost in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Some of the stories are soul destroying. This is a complex investigation as the plane was shot down over a conflict zone, which makes it extremely difficult to gather evidence".

He wants to ensure, “that I do my bit for the victims and their families, so there can be justice and hopefully some sort of comfort for them.”

Within 12 months of joining the AFP, Stephen became a Federal Agent and worked on one of the biggest fraud and corruption operations in Australia. The investigation involved an ex – Australian Tax Office Assistant Commissioner and resulted in their conviction.

Stephen’s work at the AFP has taken him all over the world, including two secondments in the United Kingdom. Once at the Metropolitan Police Service’s Counter Terrorism Command and the other at the National Crime Squad’s Money Laundering Investigations Team.

“I have had a varied career in the AFP which has had many highlights. Despite moving away from pure accountancy, the degree itself has given me many opportunities within the AFP. I have worked in Fraud and Corruption, Organised Crime, and Counter Terrorism.”

“In over 15 years with the AFP, I am particularly proud of forming and leading the AFP’s Terrorism Financing Investigations Unit (TFIU). This is a multi-agency taskforce with a national and international remit that investigates terrorism financing, uses financial intelligence in terrorism investigations, and provides training and capacity building to both public and private institutions all around the world".

“This has allowed me to present on terrorism financing at many international conferences, and facilitate workshops and training sessions in Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Hong Kong with attendees including prosecutors, law enforcement and financial intelligence experts from around the world.”

Stephen’s journey is the perfect example that you never know where your education will lead you. Even though Stephen is no longer working in his original field of study, he believes that his education at university “opened a lot of doors” for him.

“A university degree is a great thing to have no matter where your life takes you. I learnt many things during that time but in particular the different backgrounds and experiences of the professors and the students gave me an understanding of my place, and Adelaide's place in the world. Also, the importance of looking outward and making a contribution to your community. I am now doing a PhD in law and I believe that study never ends, wherever you are in the world or in your career pathway, you should embrace it and enjoy it. ”

"Adelaide is a great place to live and study. Something unique to UniSA."

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