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Australian Federal Police (AFP) have confirmed during a Senate inquiry that a new investigation has been launched into allegations linked to Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith.

Source : PortMac.News | Independent :

Source : PortMac.News | Independent | News Story:

investigation into allegations linked to Ben Roberts-Smith
Australian Federal Police (AFP) have confirmed during a Senate inquiry that a new investigation has been launched into allegations linked to Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith.

News Story Summary:

AFP Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney was asked a series of questions when he appeared before a parliamentary hearing about a Nine Network report that claimed the SAS veteran buried USB drives in his backyard.

The Channel Nine report alleged they contained compromising material relating to his time in Afghanistan and he was hiding them from police and military investigators.

Earlier this week, Mr Roberts-Smith denied that he engaged in any unlawful conduct and said the allegations were not supported by evidence.

Today his lawyers issued a fresh statement, saying Nine's reports were "entirely untrue" and provided specific denials to allegations raised by the stories.

"The allegation that he 'hid' or failed to disclose material … during the Afghanistan Inquiry is false," it said.

"Mr Roberts-Smith fully cooperated with the Afghanistan Inquiry."

The Brereton Inquiry was launched in 2016 to look into allegations of war crimes against Australian forces in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016. 

Channel Nine also reported that an email trying to discredit an SAS solider preparing to give evidence to the Brereton inquiry was sent by a person "acting on" Mr Roberts-Smith's instructions.

"The allegation that he threatened any witness or potential witness to the [inquiry] to stop them giving evidence is false," his lawyers said.

The statement also said Mr Roberts-Smith had not been contacted by the AFP about the latest investigation.

"If they do, he will cooperate with any investigation, as he has always done," it said.

Mr Roberts-Smith is currently suing Nine newspapers for defamation over a series of 2018 stories alleging he committed war crimes, and denies all allegations that he was involved in war crimes during his time in Afghanistan.

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally today asked the AFP during today's hearing if a fresh investigation had been launched by detectives as a result of the allegations aired. 

"It was reported that USB sticks with classified information as well as photos were buried in a person's backyard and the 60 Minutes report also ended with the statement that the AFP have opened fresh investigations into this matter," she said.

"Has the AFP opened a fresh investigation into any of the matters that were reported on 60 Minutes?" she asked. 

"The AFP has opened an investigation into aspects of that media reporting," Deputy Commissioner McCartney replied.

He would not say if the AFP was now in possession of the USBs but confirmed that detectives have received some data. 

"AFP does have access to have some of the material," he said.

"Some of that material was actually, as acknowledged in the media article today, was referred to the AFP by the journalist in question and also by his newspaper."

Questions about witness intimidation

Labor senator Kristina Keneally also asked the AFP at the hearing if it was looking into allegations of witness intimidation. 

In 2018, an SAS solider who was going to give evidence to the Brereton inquiry was sent a threat in the mail. 

At the time, the then-chief of the defence force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, was critical of the person behind it. 

"I think it is disgusting that a disaffected person thought they could threaten a witness and look to influence the inquiry," he said in 2018.

Deputy Commissioner McCartney would not respond directly to Senator Keneally's questions about how police were handling claims of witness intimidation. 

"It is an ongoing investigation," Deputy Commissioner McCartney told the parliamentary hearing. 

"What I can say is that some of the allegations that have been raised are serious and it's being treated as a priority by federal police."

Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney refused to outline what specific allegations police would look into in the new investigation, but said it was classified on March 29 as a "sensitive investigation". 

The definition of a sensitive investigation includes one that could involve a prominent individual in the Australian community or something that is likely to impact Australia's international relationships.  

Senator Kristina Keneally pushed the AFP to outline the details. 

"The specific allegations that have been deemed a sensitive investigation, can you just clarify that?" she said. 

Deputy Commissioner McCartney indicated it related directly to recent media reports. 

"Those matters that are mentioned in the media articles and also on 60 Minutes, they were referred to AFP on 25th March," he said.  

Story By | Stephanie Borys

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