Thursday, March 6, 2008

Additional Information - File 4 - QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE Australian Federal Police

03.06.2008 - Link APH

Mr HAYES (Werriwa) (2:03 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs. Will the minister inform the House of the latest operation involving the Australian Federal Police?


Mr DEBUS (Macquarie) (Minister for Home Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for Werriwa for his question. Members will be pleased to know that an Australian Federal Police investigation spanning several continents has culminated in the arrest of 15 people and the dismantling of a criminal syndicate involved in the global production of narcotics. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the importance of the AFP’s close relationship with its international law enforcement partners. The operation required the AFP to work closely with Australian jurisdictions and officers from the Netherlands, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and Thailand. Last week 12 people were arrested in the Netherlands and one in Thailand and yesterday saw the arrest of two people in Sydney, including a senior investigator with the New South Wales Crime Commission, Mark Standen.

It is alleged that these men were part of a conspiracy to import 600 kilograms of the precursor chemical pseudoephedrine with the potential to produce 430 kilograms of methamphetamine—that is, ice—with a wholesale value of $120 million. That is a wholesale value not a street value. The AFP has also estimated that, if those drugs had reached the community, they would have caused $140 million worth of harm in terms of social and welfare payments, medical treatment and policing.

Yesterday, both men were charged with various offences relating to conspiracy to supply and import commercial quantities of a prohibited drug and of perverting the course of justice. The arrest of Mark Standen has not surprisingly generated high media interest but, as the matter is now before the courts, the comments I am able at present to make are rather limited. However, in May last year the investigator became a person of interest to the AFP and since July 2007 the AFP and the New South Wales Crime Commission have been jointly investigating Standen’s alleged involvement in the syndicate. Evidence of his alleged connections to that syndicate came about, as I have said, because of intelligence received from the AFP’s international law enforcement partners as well as through its own investigations. It will be alleged that he used his position to provide advice to the syndicate on law enforcement methods and information on drug enforcement activities. These are allegations that are profoundly serious against someone in such a position.

I am entirely conscious that it is critical to the Australian public to have confidence in our law enforcement agencies. The AFP has managed this highly sensitive investigation with very great professionalism. In fact, Dutch authorities have publicly stated that their belief in the AFP’s capabilities was one of the main reasons that they—that is, the Dutch authorities—allowed such a long and resource intensive investigation to continue in circumstances that would have been, in the absence of such trust, quite untenable. The investigation is ongoing but, on behalf of the Australian government, I congratulate the AFP on its outstanding work in this matter.

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