Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Investigator's arrest sends shockwave through police ranks

Source ABC Posted Tue Jun 3, 2008 10:17am AEST

The arrests were linked to Operation Octans, run by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and involved work with authorities in the Netherlands, Pakistan, the UK, the United Arab Emirates and Portugal.

Portugal was home to James Henry Kinch, a British national born in Ireland who was arrested in Bangkok on Saturday and is described as a crucial middle man.

'One of the best'

Within the Australian law enforcement community, the New South Wales Crime Commission is regarded as an elite unit, and Standen is viewed as one of it best criminal investigators.

Among his achievements are spearheading the commission's investigation into a cocaine-smuggling ring involving Sydney drug lord Michael Hurley.

But yesterday it must have seemed as though his world had turned upside down when the AFP raided the Crime Commission's offices in Sydney.

AFP officers shut off computers and locked the building down. They then arrested Standen for his alleged involvement in a major chemical importation plot.

Veteran ABC Four Corners journalist Chris Masters says Standen has a fierce reputation as an investigator.

"Even though this is not somebody who's well known across Australia, within policing circles he's very well known," he said.

Standen's career began 30 years ago, policing Sydney's docks.

He then joined the AFP before being recruited by the New South Wales Crime Commission a decade ago.

Chris Masters says the arrest has sent shockwaves through the highest echelons of Australian policing.

"The New South Wales Crime Commission are pretty much the elite of crime fighting in New South Wales and one I have to say, I know it's controversial, but one that I've had a lot of respect for over the last decade or so. They do a lot," he said.

Rotten core?

Standen became a person of interest in May last year, but because the world of top investigators in Australia is so small, less than a dozen people could know he was under investigation.

The ABC has been told the only person who knew at the New South Wales Crime Commission was his boss.

His arrest is likely to have wider ramifications for the New South Wales Crime Commission.

The Commission has special investigative powers, which include the right to compel witnesses to testify and the ability to conduct covert surveillance operations.

Phillip Boulten SC, president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers' Association, says there is growing concern among lawyers that the Commission is overstepping its mark.

"The New South Wales Crime Commission is a very powerful body with draconian powers that is next to unaccountable," he said.

"It's been running very strong in this state for many years without anybody really checking into it.

"I'm suggesting either that there be a Royal Commission into the operation of the New South Wales Crime Commission or that a judicial officer be given full power to review its operations so as to report back to the Parliament of New South Wales about whether or not the Crime Commission is indeed fulfilling its charter."

Adapted from AM reports by Michael Edwards and Rafael Epstein.

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