Friday, June 24, 2011

Crooked NSW cops in desperate coverup attempt

AN UNPRECEDENTED attempt by the NSW Crime Commission's to silence a public inquiry into its internal affairs by a corruption watchdog has cost NSW taxpayers more than $386,000.

Since last year, the Police Integrity Commission has been investigating the way the NSW Crime Commission has been confiscating criminal proceeds and carving up legal fees for both itself and solicitors representing commission targets.

Public hearings were scheduled to begin on Monday, but the PIC announced yesterday that the hearings would be postponed for a second time, until July.

Its investigation, dubbed Operation Winjana, has focused on the actions of a senior Crime Commission financial analyst, Lou Novakovic, and his girlfriend, Salina Sadiq, a criminal defence lawyer who has represented commission witnesses.

But the investigation has been bitterly contested by the Crime Commission boss, Phillip Bradley. After repeated attempts behind closed doors to stop the inquiry failed, Mr Bradley unsuccessfully sued the PIC in the NSW Supreme Court, alleging it had overstepped its powers.

In all, Mr Bradley spent $174,768.28 on lawyers to fight the court action, according to figures released by the Premier's office this week. The PIC, in defending itself, spent another $211,649.

In May Justice Stephen Rothman dismissed the litigation and the acting PIC head, Jerrold Cripps, QC, announced that the public hearings would go ahead.

In one of his judgments, Justice Rothman said: "No doubt these issues can be resolved, as they once were, by referring disputes between statutory bodies to the Solicitor-General."

In February a Herald investigation revealed the Crime Commission had been sharing the proceeds of crime with known criminals, cutting deals that allow them to walk away with millions of dollars.

Instead of litigating in open court to confiscate all proceeds of crime, the commission has been settling most cases by consent for a lesser amount and often before a defendant appears on a criminal charge. For senior underworld figures, it has become a cost of doing business.

The PIC will hear evidence about whether Mr Novakovic "or any other person associated with him is or has been involved in criminal activity or serious misconduct", the PIC has said.

Winjana will also "examine the practices and procedures of the NSW Crime Commission in the conduct of actions under the Criminal Assets Recovery Act 1990".


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