04 May 2015

AFP breaks silence on Bali Nine

AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin at a media conference today.

CANBERRA | The nation’s top cop cannot guarantee Australians never again will be executed for drug offences based on information police pass onto authorities in other countries.

But Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin regrets that Indonesia went ahead with the “unnecessary” executions of Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

“It was tragic what happened last week,” he told reporters during an hour-long media conference in Canberra on Monday, breaking the AFP’s long silence on the matter.

Colvin said he understood the community’s anger about the role police played in passing along information to Indonesian authorities in 2005.

But Australian police worked closely with many countries in the region to dent the supply of narcotics and it was a “hard reality” that many of those nations still imposed the death penalty.

“I wish I could assure you that this scenario could never happen again but I cannot,”

he said.

Police couldn’t limit co-operation just to countries that had a similar judicial system or anti-drug policies.

Deputy commissioner Mike Phelan, who was in charge of the initial investigation, said Australian police asked Indonesia to help investigate the Bali Nine knowing it may lead to them facing the death penalty.

“If anybody thinks that over the last 10 years I haven’t agonised over this decision, then they don’t know me,”

he said.

Colvin said the stronger guidelines now in place around working with countries that have the death penalty meant if police were faced with an identical case today they would have to take different factors into account.

He denied policed had “shopped” the Australians in order to curry favour with the Indonesians to get greater co-operation on other investigations, saying the notion was “fanciful and offensive”.

At the time of the arrests in 2005 police did not have a complete picture of the drug syndicate and its plans, Mr Colvin said.

After the nine arrests were made in Indonesia, information gathered by police there led to six more arrests in Australia, which attracted little attention.

The AFP never promised the family of Scott Rush, who is serving a life sentence in Indonesia for his part in the crime, that he would be prevented from leaving Australia in exchange for the information they passed on to police.

Rush had been linked to the syndicate in three separate ways during the investigation.

“If Scott Rush’s father or his lawyer acting on his behalf had never made contact with the AFP, we would still be in exactly the same position we are today,” Phelan said.