Thursday, June 5, 2008

Standen case may complicate other prosecutions

Mark Standen, arrested in his office by AFP
By Jordan Baker, Dylan Welch and Andrew Clennell
June 5, 2008

WHEN the Australian Federal Police offered voluntary redundancies in an effort to thin its senior ranks in the mid-1990s, Mark Standen put up his hand, to the surprise of those who had marvelled at his remarkable career trajectory.

But many of his law enforcement colleagues, even some at his future employer, the NSW Crime Commission, knew he spent a bit of the six-figure payout on finishing his backyard pool and the rest paying off huge gambling debts. The fact that Standen's gambling was an open secret more than 10 years ago raised questions yesterday about how the commission failed to tackle a problem that could open a senior investigator to corruption or compromise.

The Premier, Morris Iemma, faced calls to set up an inquiry with the powers of a royal commission into the NSW Crime Commission after the senior investigator's arrest for allegedly planning to import ingredients to make the drug ice.

The Commonwealth prosecutor's office moved yesterday to freeze assets in Australia and overseas of Standen's alleged co-conspirator, James Henry Kinch, who has a nightclub on the Algarve coast in Portugal and property in Ireland.

The commission refused to comment on whether it had reopened investigations into suspicious leaks. One was to the drug barons Michael Hurley and Les Mara, who were tipped off to a police investigation and went into hiding.

The second was an apparent tip-off to a senior bikie that his Cronulla unit was bugged in 2002. NSW detectives involved in the covert police operation reportedly believed the leak came from the Crime Commission.

The commission's head, Phillip Bradley, also refused to explain why the notoriously secretive body failed to monitor its senior investigators' financial liabilities, or whether it ever took any steps to counsel Standen over his gambling, mostly on horses.

At Central Local Court yesterday Michael Ainsworth, the barrister for two men accused of participating in a Sydney cocaine ring, referred to Standen's involvement and said the case now had "problems".

It is understood that Standen's name appears frequently across the brief of evidence tendered by the prosecution. In particular he was the officer who signed the document granting immunity to "Mr X", the chief Crown witness.

Outside court Mr Ainsworth said Standen's charging could have implications for Crime Commission cases before the courts.

The Opposition's police spokesman, Mike Gallacher, called for a commission of inquiry into the scandal, which would also look at how it released 10 kilograms of cocaine and recovered only one, and how the drug dealer Les Mara was tipped off to an arrest.

He said suggestions that the Independent Commission Against Corruption may be able to look at the commission had been compromised with news that Standen had conducted an affair with a colleague who now worked for the ICAC.

The Police Association and Law Society joined calls by the Opposition for an independent oversight body to monitor the organisation as a parliamentary committee monitors the ICAC.

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