20 August 2015
by Nicole Hasham

Nauru guard allegedly confesses to fake assault story

A secret recording captures a Nauru detention centre guard admitting to his colleague that he falsified a report of being assaulted by an asylum seeker.

All I want out of it is a conviction recorded. Because then he doesn't go to Australia.

An Australian-paid guard at Nauru is accused of falsely claiming an asylum seeker violently assaulted him then perjuring himself in court, before confessing to the lie in a secret recording made by a colleague.

Fairfax Media has obtained a copy of the alleged confession, in which the Wilson Security guard boasts about the incident and jokes about taking a "dive" – the sporting term for falling to the ground and faking an injury. The guard said he wanted the asylum seeker convicted so he would never be settled in Australia.

The asylum seeker is believed to be a young Iranian man. It is understood he spent one month in jail for the alleged assault and tried to kill himself at least three times after being falsely accused – once almost successfully hanging himself.

Wilson Security says there was not enough evidence to make a finding against the guard, despite the company's own investigators apparently recording his confession.

Wilson admits it knew about the guard's potentially false claim, but refused to say if it shared this information with a Nauru court deciding the assault case. The asylum seeker was later found not guilty.

Wilson kept the alleged fabrication hidden from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, raising concern that potentially criminal behaviour is occurring in taxpayer-funded offshore camps without government knowledge.

The controversy also raises questions over Wilson's response to a host of other alleged incidents at the Nauru detention centre, such as the sexual misconduct of guards, the torture of detainees and spying on senator Sarah Hanson-Young – allegations the company's officials either played down or denied.

In an official report of the alleged assault dated August 13 last year, obtained by Fairfax Media, the guard claimed he was controlling an access point between two sections of the camp when the asylum seeker tried to push past to visit his brother.

"Whilst defenceless and holding a two-way radio I was struck with a left fist or forearm by [the asylum seeker]," the guard, who is believed to be Australian, said.

"I moved my arms down in front of me as [the asylum seeker] continued forcing his way forward. I was then tripped or kicked [in] the lower left leg before we both fell to the ground."

The guard said he suffered facial bruising. However, a source close to the incident told Fairfax Media he believed the injuries were self-inflicted afterwards.

The incident was reported to Nauru police and the asylum seeker was charged with assault. Court documents show the guard later repeated the claims in a Nauru court. The asylum seeker was found not guilty in February this year after two female witnesses who worked at the camp disputed the guard's account.

A former Wilson employee told Fairfax Media that several months before the court verdict, the guard told colleagues he fabricated his story.

The source said Wilson investigators arranged for a staff member to covertly record a confession from the guard. It is believed the staff member entered an office where the guard was working and engaged him in conversation, recording the encounter on an iPhone.

The guard is asked about the asylum seeker, whom he purportedly disliked prior to the incident. In the recording, he indicates the asylum seeker lightly touched him but "I've gone, 'Aaah, he's hit me in the face.' [I've] grabbed him, pulled him to the ground and he's lying on top of me and [I yelled], 'Get off me, get off me you f---ing bastard.'

"He did push past and strike me. But we are talking about the level of the strike that [is] really in contention here," the guard says, before laughing.

"It may have been a small dive. Just sayin' … F--- him … it was mainly because [the asylum seeker is] a shithead."

The guard said he wanted a conviction recorded against the asylum seeker "because then he doesn't go to Australia ... that's all I was hoping to get out of it".

Wilson would not verify the recording.

It is understood Wilson management in Australia was provided a copy of the recording as part of an internal investigation, which concluded the guard lied about the assault, committed perjury and perverted the course of justice. The company would not confirm this.

While Wilson admits it was alerted to potential problems with the guard's account before the court delivered its verdict, the firm refused to say if it shared the information with the court or informed the Immigration Department.

The former employee said Wilson management wanted the incident "buried".

He said the asylum seeker became highly distressed after being accused, especially when fellow passengers on the boat he arrived on were moved to Australia while he was forced to stay behind due to the court action.

"He became angry and agitated. During that time he tried to kill himself three times and the third attempt was very serious," the former employee said, referring to an attempted hanging.

The former employee said the asylum seeker spent two weeks in jail after the initial allegations, and another two weeks when he breached bail conditions.

A current Wilson employee said the guard had previously had an altercation with the asylum seeker and wanted to "square up, if you like, and he waited for the opportunity".

In a statement, Wilson said it reopened its investigation into the assault "when made aware of additional information suggesting the incident had not occurred as described".

"At the conclusion of the investigation there was insufficient evidence to make a finding against the staff member," the statement said, adding an independent review of the investigation has been commissioned and the staff member involved has been suspended while it is under way.

Wilson would not say when the review was instigated, who is conducting it and whether the guard is being paid while suspended.

The Department of Immigration said it was alerted to the alleged fabrication by an anonymous submission to a Senate inquiry into the Nauru detention centre. The department has "requested a full briefing from Wilson Security on the incident".

Senator Hanson-Young, who was spied on by Wilson staff when visiting Nauru in December 2013, said that incident, "together with the serious nature of abuse against women and children inside the camp, shows the government contractors are acting as a law unto themselves".

Wilson Security is due to front the Senate inquiry on Thursday and Senator Hanson-Young said "half-truths and glib apologies will not be acceptable".