Ex police commissioner fronts NT court

Lucy Hughes Jones

A former Northern Territory police commissioner accused of derailing an investigation into a corrupt travel agent with whom he was allegedly intimate ordered a special task force to examine large scale fraud, a court has heard.

John McRoberts is charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice in relation to an investigation into Xana Kamitsis, who was jailed for fraud in 2015.

At his committal hearing on Thursday, the NT Local Court heard McRoberts set up a multi-agency task force to investigate 28 travel agents who were allegedly rorting a pensioners' travel concession scheme to the tune of $5 million.

McRoberts was NT police commissioner for five years until he was forced to stand down in January 2015 over his involvement in the case of Kamitsis, the former boss of Latitude Travel.

The 58-year-old faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Kamitsis was released from prison into home detention last November after serving time for manipulating the scheme to rip off the NT government of more than $120,000.

The court had previously heard a conflict of interest concern was raised about the case because McRoberts was allegedly in a relationship with Kamitsis.

The former NT Crime Stoppers chair would have monthly meetings with McRoberts, and Acting Assistant Commissioner Tony Fuller said they were "overtly friendly towards each other".

"They obviously had a very strong friendship," he said while giving evidence.

Department of Attorney-General and Justice chief executive Greg Shanahan told the court that during a meeting in mid 2014, McRoberts canvassed establishing the task force.

The pair discussed the enormous financial loss to the government from the Health Department's poorly-run scheme and the need to recover money.

Additional funding and staff eventually had to be pumped into the task force to investigate the widespread fraud.

Assistant Commissioner Fuller said detectives wanted to raid all 28 travel agencies under investigation, but didn't even have the resources to raid the eight most "at risk" businesses.

Former Country Liberals Party ministerial adviser Paul Mossman was convicted of receiving kickbacks from Kamitsis, but was handed a 12-month suspended sentence in January.

Several high-profile police officers, lawyers and political figures are expected to testify during the upcoming hearings, which will decide whether McRoberts should face a Supreme Court trial.

Former chief minister Adam Giles, current police commissioner Reece Kershaw and Corrections Commissioner Mark Payne will give evidence at a later date.