From The Australian
More to come
Victoria Police make arrests over Labor’s red shirt rorts
Victorian fraud squad investigators have pounced on more than a dozen individuals across three states for questioning this morning as a criminal investigation into Labor’s red shirt rorts intensifies.
It is understood Victoria Police are questioning former campaigners and Labor staff over making false documents, specifically relating to time sheets that were signed in 2014 that show state campaigners were also working as electoral officers.
The Victorian Ombudsman found in March the party had misused $388,000 in taxpayer funds by paying campaigners out of MPs’ staff allowances. Victorian Labor has since repaid all of the funds.A former red shirts campaigner told The Australian they were taken into custody shortly after 6am today by fraud squad investigators, who told them they were being arrested for making a false document.
The campaigner was also strip searched.
At the point it is unclear whether MPs or Cabinet members have been taken in for questioning.
Victoria Police has confirmed it is interviewing 17 people this morning, including persons of interest in NSW, the Northern Territory and Victoria.
“Victoria Police undertook reassessment of the material in relation to allegations of misuse of parliamentary entitlements to determine if further investigation was required,” a spokeswoman said.
“This assessment has now been completed and a formal investigation is being conducted by the Fraud and Extortion Squad.
“Police are interviewing a number of people this morning across metro and regional Victoria.
“Several people will also be spoken to in New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
“In total, 17 people will be interviewed by police.”
This morning’s events represents a dramatic escalation of the investigation into Labor’s campaigning activities ahead of the November 2014 state election.
While an initial Victoria Police investigation into the rort in 2015 didn’t result in a criminal investigation, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said a reassessment of the evidence this year had warranted a criminal investigation into whether documents were doctored or falsified.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has repeatedly denied taking part in the scheme or knowing how it operated, and that it broke parliamentary rules. He has also denied members of the party raised concerns about the scheme with him.
Six current Cabinet members including Attorney-General Martin Pakula have been found by the state Ombudsman to have taken part in the scheme.
The Liberal Opposition has called on them to step down during the police investigation, but they are resisting the pressure.