Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Gambling debt claim over top crime buster Mark Standen

By Charles Miranda and Lisa Davies
June 04, 2008 12:00AM

A TOP crime buster is believed to have lost $1 million on the punt before he was arrested over allegations that he masterminded one of Australia's biggest drug runs.

Complex operation: Mick Keelty. Herald Sun

Mark Standen re-mortgaged his family home and cashed in his superannuation to pay for losses on the horses, a source told the Herald Sun.

The NSW Crime Commission assistant director was arrested on Monday over his alleged role in trying to import chemicals to produce $120 million worth of the deadly drug ice.

It was also revealed last night that Mr Standen's lover works at NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Australian Federal Police boss Mick Keelty yesterday described the allegations against Mr Standen as some one of the most serious potential breaches of law enforcement he had seen.

Mr Standen is said to have had more than $1 million in gambling debts to telephone bookies and to have cashed in his AFP superannuation, and mortgaged a marital home to the hilt.

His girlfriend, who worked with him at the Crime Commission in the top-secret area of telephone intercepts, was recently seconded to the ICAC, where she works in the assessments section.

Sources said Mr Standen and his lover had lunch together on Monday before he was arrested at his desk.

Mr Standen, 51, did not apply for bail at Sydney's Central Local Court yesterday, remaining in the cells beneath the court for the brief mention hearing.

His gambling addiction was an open secret in the AFP before he left to join the Crime Commission, a source said.

And commission director Phillip Bradley said yesterday he knew Mr Standen had a gambling problem.

He said Mr Standen's arrest was "very damaging, there's no doubt about that".

All high-level criminal cases in Australia will be reviewed after Mr Standen's arrest.

Mr Standen had access to information on organised crime lords and drug cartels operating in Australia and overseas.

A source described his 30-year knowledge of cases and criminals as encyclopedic.

Mr Keelty said the two-year investigation, dubbed Operation Octans, that culminated in the arrest of Mr Standen and 13 others worldwide was one of the most complex he had ever seen.

"The complexity of this is something that is very difficult to describe, given we had to co-ordinate the law enforcement agencies in Netherlands, in Portugal, in Germany, in Pakistan, in Thailand and obviously Australia," he said.

Mr Standen's wife, Lynn, refused to speak at their Sydney's waterfront home yesterday.

The two-storey, three-garage home with an in-ground pool was bought in Mark Standen's name in December 2006 for $737,500.

Documents show there are two mortgages on the house, for $400,000 and $322,190. Neighbours said they were quiet and liked big family barbecues.

The Australian Crime Commission has stepped in to question Mr Standen's lover and other NSW commission officers.

A second officer, who was close to Mr Standen, is believed to have resigned after being interviewed.

ICAC Commissioner Jerrold Cripps said he had been kept informed about the AFP investigation into Mr Standen.

He said Mr Standen's lover was not a suspect in the plan to import enough ephedrine to flood Sydney and Melbourne with ice.

Senior officers were shocked at the ICAC link.

"This is worse than we realised," a source said.

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