Cole to meet with top cop

31 May, 2006 08:45 PM

AUSTRALIA'S highest ranking police official and commissioner Terence Cole may discuss this week whether or not to lay charges against those involved in the Iraqi wheat scandal.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty is scheduled to meet with Mr Cole as part of his ongoing investigation into AWB's payment of $290 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Last week Mr Keelty told a senate estimates hearing that Mr Cole had asked to meet with him on June 1, but declined to say what might be discussed.

Under questioning, Mr Keelty told the hearing that no decision has been made on whether to press charges against AWB employees, and confirmed that no evidence from the Cole inquiry had been referred to the federal police.

Australian federal police spokesperson Kate Bradstreet declined to comment on the nature of the meeting, saying "We will just have to wait and see what the outcomes are".

It is believed the commissioner may use the meeting with Mr Keelty to seek clarification about possible criminal charges that could be pursued against individuals involved in the wheat scandal.

Andrew Goldsmith, professor of law and criminal justice at Flinders University in Adelaide, said Mr Cole must be having doubts about the legal conduct of AWB staff.

"Presumably, Mr Cole has come across material during his inquiry that at least raises doubts about the legality of conduct by AWB staff in their dealings with payments to trucking companies with links to the Hussein administration in Iraq," Mr Goldsmith said.

"I can think of no other obvious reason for these two to meet.

"Once any such material is handed across to the AFP, it would then be for them to decide how to proceed by way of criminal investigation."

Since his appointment as AFP commissioner in April 2001, Mr Keelty has been involved with many activities including the introduction of new counter-terrorism responsibilities, aviation security and trans-national crime - but this is the first time he has met with the head of a royal commission into non-police activities.

Mr Keelty is career police officer with more than 30 years experience at local, national and international level and is the first commissioner appointed from within AFP ranks.

The AFP is Australia's national policing agency, enforcing commonwealth criminal law and protecting commonwealth interests from crime, both within Australia and abroad.

The AFP is also Australia's international law enforcement and policing representative and it is the chief source of advice to the Australian government on policing issues.

Mr Cole's final report on AWB's illicit payments to Iraq is not expected to be delivered to the government for several weeks.



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