Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus has defended his officers' raid on Seven West Media last week, saying he did not believe the company had fully complied with orders to produce documents about its dealings with Schapelle Corby.
But Independent Senator Nick Xenophon accused Mr Negus last night of making an "outrageous assertion" that Seven would conceal, lose or destroy documents to stymie police investigations.
The AFP carried out raids on several of Seven's Sydney premises last Tuesday in the belief that the media company had struck an agreement to conduct a paid interview with Corby, a convicted drug trafficker.
Seven West Media, the owner of _The West Australian _, has confirmed it had been negotiating with Corby since her release from a Bali jail on February 10 but insists no agreement has been reached.
In a sometimes testy hearing before a Senate committee yesterday, Mr Negus conceded that AFP paperwork provided to a magistrate to secure a search warrant on Seven's premises in Sydney had wrongly accused the media company's lawyer of committing a crime.
But he said the "typographical error", while of a concern to him, had not influenced the magistrate's decision to grant the search warrant because it featured in a document separate to the affidavit.
The company yesterday lodged documents in the Federal Court to have the search warrant set aside in light of the AFP admitting it had made mistakes in its paperwork.
Asked by Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan if, in his "professional judgment", he believed that Seven had complied with two previous orders to produce relevant documents, Mr Negus said: "No, not completely, senator. No."
Under questioning by Senator Xenophon, Mr Negus said AFP investigators "suspected on reasonable grounds" that Seven had not surrendered all relevant documents.
"So that was a judgment call that the AFP made, that they suspected that Seven West Media, a major public company, was going to be involved in the concealment, loss or destruction of documents," Senator Xenophon asked Mr Negus. "That's an outrageous assertion."
Mr Negus said: "I've made no such assertion. This organisation prides itself on achieving the highest standards of probity and high standards of professionalism. An error was made in this which is of great concern to me but that does not, on our best advice, invalidate the warrant."
In a statement last night, Seven West Media said: "Seven is concerned at the ducking and diving in tonight's Senate estimates in response to questions.
"In effectively saying that Seven hadn't adequately produced documents in response to the production orders, the commissioner and his deputy misquotes or ignores our lawyer's fulsome response in which she was very specific when she told them: 'All documents in response to the production order so far as they relate to Seven's television programs have been produced. In response to your query regarding the February 7 agreement headed "Mercedes Corby Exclusivity Agreement", there are no funds to be paid except for the matters referred to in the agreement. Accordingly, no such documents have been produced. The search warrant, which elicited the draft, was wider in its terms. The production order only sought actual agreements'."