The Peter Slipper conviction and the AFP

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There is no doubt about the Australian Federal Police, says Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones — after four years investigation, they have finally gotten their man.

PETER SLIPPER has, finally, been convicted for something.

On Monday 28 July, he was found guilty of three dishonesty charges in the ACT Magistrates Court for rorting his Commonwealth Cabcharge account.

The offences occurred in 2010 and involved a total sum of just over $900.

Slipper has long held a reputation for being free and easy with his travel expenses. Mark Furler from the Sunshine Coast Daily and News Ltd’s Steve Lewis have been on his case for years.

Back in 2010, the Daily was regularly reporting on Slipper’s spending habits, with articles like this:

COAST MP Peter Slipper has defended his latest travel bills, claiming they are all within guidelines.

The Member for Fisher racked up $4654.97 in taxi fares in just 11 days in January, despite the fact parliament was not sitting.

That followed a $4607.73 taxi bill over 12 days last December, bringing the total cost for just 23 days over the two-month period to $9262.70.

The Daily yesterday revealed that parliamentary entitlement claims for the six months to June 30 this year showed Mr Slipper also spent $932.85 on fuel for his government-funded private plated car during January and $585.70 for car hire from January 2 to January 8.

Mr Slipper, who has been under investigation by the Department of Finance for his entitlement claims for the six-month period to the end of 2009, again spent big on domestic air travel in the first six months of this year, running up a bill of $32,113.29, more than double the $15,638.96 spent by Alex Somlyay, the member for the neighbouring electorate of Fairfax.

Steve 'Scoop' Lewis of Sydney's Daily Telegraph was also on the case in October 2010, one of many articles in a series that ran for years:

Finance is investigating how Mr Slipper racked up more than $6000 in taxi fares during a 15-day period in July-August 2009 - when Parliament was in recess. He also spent much more than any other federal MP on magazines, using his "publications" entitlement.

It is common knowledge that a goodly portion of politicians are corrupt. It is also common knowledge that there is corruption and then there is corruption. Some are seriously corrupt – like Sir Joh and his bagman Terry Lewis or Eddie Obeid MP – and some are less so.

Some have gotten away with things a lot of citizens think they should have gone to gaol for — think Peter Reith.

Some have done things a lot of citizens consider very borderline, think Tony Abbott and his wedding expenses then add pollie pedal and book launches.

Slipper is in the unfortunate position of having enemies in high places.

There is little doubt he rorted the taxpayer on his 2010 sojourn through the Canberra wineries in a comfy hire car with a load of mellow good cheer. Half his luck.

But who dobbed him in?

James Ashby is the easy answer. And its half-right.

In his Originating Application of 20 April 2012, which accused the Speaker of touching him  and inferring dirty things, Ashby also alleged he’d seen Slipper handing blank Cabcharge dockets to a Sydney hire-car driver.

On the stern advice of Mal Brough and David Russell QC, James dogged his boss to the AFP.

On 2 May 2012 the sleuths announced their quest to the media and, two days later, on 4 May, formally advised the Speaker in writing they were going to give his expenses a going over.

As a consequence, the AFP tipped A8 Audi limo driver Antwan Kaikaty upside down and gave him a good shaking, but nothing dropped out.

Except that Antwan had a record going back to 2002 for running credit cards through the Cabcharge machine more than once a trip. Reformed, he said.

There was no joy for the AFP in the Ashby allegations, but its appetite was piqued.

The court had heard the initial investigation into Slipper's travel entitlements was prompted by allegations brought by former political staffer James Ashby about car trips in 2012.

From a report by Megan Gorrey in the Canberra Times:

In his evidence, Detective Sergeant Michael Turner, an agent with the AFP, told the court he had recommended the scope of an investigation into Slipper's alleged misuse of his travel entitlements be widened to cover a period of more than two years.

His said his decision was prompted by Mr Ashby's claims, as well as Finance Department documents released under Freedom of Information laws and related media reports about the allegations.

Detective Sergeant Turner said his recommendation had been endorsed by senior police, including AFP Assistant Commissioner Ramzi Jabbour and Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

He said he did not have any discussions with members of the Government about the investigation and was not aware of other senior police having such conversations.

Senior police, $900, four years ago.

They always get their man.

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