Friday, June 6, 2008

AFP head Mick Keelty had fears on crime fighters

Angus Hohenboken and Natalie O'Brien From: The Australian June 06, 2008

AUSTRALIAN Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty had concerns about the operations of the secretive NSW Crime Commission as early as 2005.

Mr Keelty, who is on the board of management of the commission, wrote to then NSW police minister Carl Scully outlining his concerns.

"I withdrew from the management meetings when I highlighted some issues to the former minister and I wanted those issues addressed," Mr Keelty said yesterday. "And those issues have long since been addressed and I've been participating in the meetings ever since."

Australia's police and anti-corruption forces have been rocked by this week's arrest of Mark Standen, the NSW Crime Commission's assistant director of investigations, over an alleged plot to import enough pseudoephedrine to make $120 million worth of the drug ice.

NSW Police Minister David Campbell said yesterday the state's Police Integrity Commission would for the first time be given oversight of the commission, in a move designed to restore public confidence in the notoriously secretive crimefighting organisation.

Mr Campbell said the PIC, which has the powers of a royal commission, would oversee all activities of the crime commission. He told NSW parliament the changes would come into effect immediately and would not diminish the oversight role of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

It emerged yesterday that the ICAC was told of allegations involving Mr Standen nine months ago, while his lover and former colleague, Louise Baker, was working for the organisation. She is on leave and is not a suspect in the investigation involving Mr Standen. Mr Campbell told parliament that the ICAC first became aware of allegations against Mr Standen in September last year, while Ms Baker was on secondment from the crime commission.

Criminal Defence Lawyers Association president Phillip Boulten SC said the move to give the NSW PIC oversight of the commission was a step in the right direction, but the Government should go further.

Opposition police spokesman Mike Gallacher said the PIC was nothing but a "secret police boys' club". "The PIC and the crime commission have worked together on a number of investigations in the past few years, blurring the lines between the two agencies," Mr Gallacher said. "The inextricable links between these agencies make it laughable to suggest one could investigate the other and retain public confidence."

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