AusGov: Q & A on police and JRH attack, Balibo



Proof Committee Hansard




(Budget Estimates)

MONDAY, 26 MAY 2008


Senator NETTLE—If you could check that for me, that would be
appreciated. I have some questions that I want to ask about the
Australian Federal Police cooperation with East Timor in relation to
the shooting of President Ramos Horta. Could you outline for us any
update on what the current status is in terms of the cooperation with
East Timor, particularly in relation to two matters: one, the phone
calls that were made by Alfredo Reinado to Australia prior to the
shooting of Mr Horta; and, two, the bank accounts in Darwin, about
which there has been much commentary in the press?

Mr Keelty—I would just point out that this is an ongoing investigation
in East Timor being conducted by the Prosecutor-General. The AFP
involvement forms two levels. The first level is those AFP officers who
are part of the United Nations team attached to the investigation. The
second level is those inquiries that you identified that may be
conducted here. My difficulty is that the investigation is underway and
it is at a clearly important phase of the investigation. I do not think
it would be appropriate for me to describe what we have been doing and
the outcome of what we have been doing whilst it is still current.

Senator NETTLE—Is it correct that the AFP is currently cooperating with
the Timorese prosecutor in terms of providing information on both those
two matters—the phone calls and the bank accounts?

Mr Keelty—Yes.

Senator NETTLE—Therehas been commentary in relation to how that
cooperation would occur. In particular there has been comment about the
need to sign a mutual assistance agreement—I think that is the
terminology that is used—prior to that cooperation occurring. Does that
impact on the AFP’s ability to cooperate, or does it relate more to the
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade?

Mr Keelty—If I can talk in hypotheticals rather than the actual case,
it depends to what use the material that has been sought is going to be
put. I am not talking about the East Timor case. If the material being
sought is to be used in a prosecution, then it has to somehow be
admissible in the prosecution within the other jurisdiction. So in the
normal course, that would be done through a mutual legal assistance
request, which would be handled by the department. There are occasions
when there is police-to-police cooperation. The difficulty with the
police-to-police cooperation is that it does not always render the
material that is gathered as admissible in the other prosecution. I
cannot put it any more fully than that. In a hypothetical sense, I
cannot even advise you whether there is a request in place or not. I am
talking about hypothetical situations. If mutual legal assistance
requests are made, we cannot discuss them.

Senator NETTLE—Okay. Can you say whether the cooperation that you were
talking about, which you are having with the Timorese prosecutor, is
for evidence or just police cooperation?

Mr Keelty—We are trying to cooperate, and we are cooperating, to ensure
that the prosecutor has all the material available to him that we can
obtain in the most appropriate course. I do not want to elaborate any

Senator NETTLE—In the media there have been statements by President
Ramos Horta that Australia is not cooperating to the extent that he
would like to see. Would you care to comment on that?

Mr Keelty—No, because it is a newspaper report. I have not spoken to
President Ramos Horta on this issue. I obviously have had a
relationship with him through the last 10 years. We have provided a lot
of assistance to the President in terms of close personal protection
whilst he has been hospitalised in Australia, but as far as I am aware
the relationship between the AFP and President Ramos Horta is a very
positive one and, as you know, we are providing resources to the United
Nations mission in East Timor. Prior to the shooting in December last
year I had very positive discussions with President Ramos Horta about
bilateral development of the police in Timor-Leste, and that is now
going to occur through the budget announcements last week. I would not
like to comment on the veracity or otherwise of the newspaper reports.

Senator NETTLE—Can you say whether the AFP has frozen bank accounts in
Australia in association with this investigation?

Mr Keelty—That is an operational question. I would not be able to
answer that.

Senator NETTLE—Is the AFP investigating individuals who are claimed to
have fled to Australia following the shooting of Mr Horta?

Mr Keelty—Again, I cannot answer the question. Suffice to say that we
giving the East Timorese authorities—the prosecutor-general, the East
Timorese police and the United Nations our fullest cooperation and
assistance where we can.

Senator NETTLE—I want to ask you about another East Timor matter. I
understand the Australian Federal Police is working on a brief in
relation to the Balibo Five matter. Is that correct?

Mr Keelty—I can confirm that we have received a request from the
Attorney-General’s Department in relation to the death of Brian Peters.
We are obviously working on that request. There are a number of legal
issues involved in this matter. Again, I do not think it is appropriate
for me to take it any further, other than to say that we are working
with the department on the request.

Senator NETTLE—Is that a request for the department or for the DPP?

Mr Keelty—My briefing tells me it is for the department, which makes
sense to me because, again, it is a matter where jurisdiction is
founded elsewhere.

Senator NETTLE—Can you explain that to me?

Mr Keelty—Because the events are alleged to have occurred in a foreign
country, there are a lot of issues about the gathering of evidence and
whether it is possible for any prosecution to take place.

Mr Cornall—Just to add to that, the department is responsible for the
processing of requests for mutual assistance in criminal matters. We
are the central agency for dealing with those requests both to and from
Australia but, as Mr Keelty has pointed out, under that legislation we
are required not to talk about those requests publicly.

Senator NETTLE—I amtrying to get my head around this. As a result of
the coronial inquiry that occurred in New South Wales, I thought that
the next stage was for the DPP to make a decision about whether or not
they wanted to pursue charges in Australia rather than in East Timor.
Is that correct?

Mr Cornall—Can I ask that you wait until the criminal justice division
is here later today. It is a level of detail I do not have in my brief
and I do not want to give you inaccurate information. But if it is to
do with mutual assistance requests for information to support the
decision whether to prosecute then we do not talk about mutual
assistance requests on the public record, and that has been our
position, which this committee has respected, I think, for many years.

Senator NETTLE—So the mutual assistance relates to whether the
prosecution was occurring in another country or is it broader than that?

Mr Cornall—It is a process by which countries are able to obtain from
another country in a formal way information which could be used in a
criminal prosecution—if that was the decision that was made—and in a
way that is admissible in evidence, which was the point Commissioner
Keelty was making: that some police cooperation does not result in
information that could be admissible in a court of law.

Senator NETTLE—So if the DPP were to make a prosecution in Australia in
relation to the Balibo Five matter, would that necessarily include a
mutual assistance component to it because it related to matters in
another country?

Mr Cornall—I do not have the details of this matter before me, but the
point I am trying to make is that a prosecution in Australia may
require evidence to be obtained in another country and the way we would
do that is through a mutual assistance request.

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