The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity will hold its first-ever public hearings in 13 years as part of its inquiry into allegations of a corrupt relationship between parts of the Department of Home Affairs, Australian Border Force, and casino operator Crown Resorts.
Former Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg will be one of the first three witnesses at the hearings, which start on Tuesday, October 29, along with ABF deputy commissioner Mandy Newton and Home Affairs first assistant secretary Peta Dunn.
Dunn is in charge of immigration programs at Home Affairs and Newton is the deputy commissioner for ABF operations. “Mandy is responsible for providing high-level strategic direction across all operational activities around the border,” according to her official profile. “This includes the management of travellers, goods and cargo, as well as enforcement and maritime operations.”
The ACLEI investigation follows serious allegations about government ministers, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and immigration authorities arranging special treatment for Crown and the operators of gambling junkets that bring high-rolling international visitors to its venues.
The anti-corruption body has scheduled three days of hearings next week at the Victorian County Court in central Melbourne, with a fourth day to be confirmed.
In July, Quaedvlieg was one key source of startling claims reported by journalists from Nine and the ABC suggesting some people of very questionable character were ferried in and out of the country to gamble large sums of money. Many of his recollections came from his time as a senior officer with the Australian Federal Police but he also said that as ABF commissioner, he had been asked by two ministers and a backbencher to help smooth the passage of big-spending Chinese gamblers into the country.
The thrust of the reporting — like the claim that an ABF officer “moonlighted to provide security for an international criminal fugitive” who was involved in arranging trips to Crown’s gambling venues and that a Victorian police detective did much the same — were backed up by independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie, who said he had heard similar claims from multiple whistleblowers who had worked at Crown and as police officers.
Agencies of the Victorian, New South Wales, West Australian, and Commonwealth governments have all been implicated in various allegations, and six different government bodies have reportedly launched investigations as a result, but each will only look at one narrow part of the overall picture. While ACLEI has strong powers to investigate corruption, it is only able to look at the role of certain specified federal law enforcement agencies.
Fending off claims that an ACLEI inquiry was an inadequate response from the federal government, Attorney-General Christian Porter said that if the watchdog uncovered crimes by people outside its jurisdiction, it could refer the evidence to the AFP.
Crown Resorts strongly refuted the stories and even paid for full pages in newspapers to mount a list of rebuttals. These were categorically rejected in a joint editorial from The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and 60 Minutes.