View Comments
Federal Police face questioning over raids
Australian Federal Police officers search the computers and seize documents at Seven’s Sunday Night offices in Sydney. Picture: Steve Pennells/The West Australian

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus will be asked to justify raids on Seven West Media's Sydney offices before a parliamentary committee next week amid disquiet inside the Federal Government about the police tactics.

Armed AFP officers swooped on several Seven West premises on Tuesday as part of investigations into whether convicted drug trafficker Schapelle Corby had sold her story to the media company.

The AFP said it conducted the raids under proceeds of crime laws that include literary proceeds "where a person profits from their criminal notoriety".

Seven West Media, the owner of The West Australian, insisted it co-operated fully with the AFP before the raids, twice responding to requests from investigators for documents, including the day before the search warrants were executed.

In a statement this morning, Seven West Media chief executive Tim Worner said: "Any claims by the AFP that they uncovered any relevant documents as part of their raid on Seven West Media and its premises are false.

"The document given to them by Seven during their visit on Tuesday was not covered by or requested in the previous production order. A massive amount of public time and money was wasted on something that could have been requested by email.

"In any event the document has no legal effect as it is an unsigned draft which was never finalised.

"The production order only sought actual agreements. 34 armed personnel were required to correct a drafting error in a massive over reaction. AFP believed what they read in the papers and are no doubt shocked to discover the truth."

Seven West commercial director Bruce McWilliam, who described AFP officers as heavy-handed goons, said yesterday the "unprecedented" raid came despite repeated assurances from the company that no agreement had been reached with Corby.

AFP WARRANT WAS SUSPECT: SEVEN

"It's not an offence to seek an interview and it's not an offence to pay for an interview," Mr McWilliam said.

"The only relevant purpose of the Proceeds of Crime Act is to enable them to seize funds from a criminal - and we have not agreed to pay anything."

He said "around half a million" had been discussed with Corby but again stressed that no agreement had been reached.

The AFP took documents dating as far back as 2005, including documents relating to a $25,000 payment to Corby's Bali-based sister Mercedes for an interview with New Idea magazine.

Corby was convicted of trafficking 4.2kg of cannabis into Bali and sentenced to 20 years jail. She was released on parole on February 10 after serving nine years. Indonesian authorities have warned that her parole could be revoked if she conducts an interview.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, orders can be made to freeze money from being withdrawn or transferred, or have money paid to the Commonwealth.

Mr Worner has written to Attorney-General George Brandis to complain about the raids.

Senator Brandis said the warrants were executed independently of the Government and without any prior warning.

It is understood the Attorney-General and Justice Minister Michael Keenan only became aware of the raids about the same time Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, an old friend and former legal partner of Mr McWilliam, contacted them.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said the raids on Seven were "total overkill" and pledged to use a Senate estimates hearing next week to question Mr Negus about them.

"It appears to be a most curious use of resources," he said.

"How about going after the real criminals rather than being dragged into the media frenzy over Schapelle, who's already been convicted and done jail time?"

Senior Government figures echoed Senator Xenophon's comments, expressing concerns that the raids were disproportionate.

Shadow justice minister David Feeney said Mr Turnbull acted in a "very irregular way" by ringing ministerial colleagues "at the behest of a former business partner and friend".

"It would be best advised to let the AFP conduct their investigations undisturbed by Malcolm Turnbull's interest in the matter," Mr Feeney said.

But Mr Turnbull defended his actions, saying it was "completely conventional".

"Bruce McWilliam called me, I am the Communications Minister, and he obviously was unhappy that there was a large number of police officers raiding the Seven Network," Mr Turnbull told Sydney radio station 2GB yesterday.

"I contacted the two ministers - I contacted both of them because I wasn't sure if I could get one or the other and I ended up speaking briefly to each of them.

"I relayed the conversation I'd had with McWilliam and then went back to McWilliam and said, 'If you want to discuss this, then the person you should talk to is George Brandis'.

"Bruce, as I understand it from George, subsequently called George Brandis but Mr Brandis in fact subsequently talked to the chairman of the Seven Network, Kerry Stokes.

"And that is it and it is a completely conventional matter."