Joh’s corrupt police chief Terry Lewis may take sordid secrets to the grave

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Former Queensland Police Commissioner Terry Lewis (image via theconversation.com).

Will questions about former premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and corrupt police chief Terry Lewis, raised by the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption and organised crime, ever be answered? Steve Bishop reports.

IT'S 30 YEARS since the genesis of the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption and there are still major questions about the involvement of police and politicians in the illegal drug trade and other criminal activity.

Questions such as:

  • Were corrupt former Police Commissioner Terry Lewis, cabinet minister Don Lane, Assistant Commissioner Tony Murphy and former detective Glen Hallahan involved in controlling the illegal drug market?
  • How accurate were allegations that the "rat pack" of Lewis, Murphy and Hallahan had regular meetings as a board of directors of organised crime in Queensland?
  • Was Premier Bjelke-Petersen blackmailed into appointing junior inspector Terry Lewis as police commissioner in 1976?
  • Where did the power lie between Lewis and Bjelke-Petersen?
  • How did the "rat pack" pervert the Williams Royal Commission into Drugs?

In January, I put these and other questions to Lewis, who was found guilty of 15 charges of corruption in 1991. So far, he has failed to provide any answers.

The questions were backed by facts contained in a 10,000 word analysis of his corrupt behaviour, which I submitted to him.

As an example, in 1979, Lewis and his crooked colleagues were in grave danger as the Federal Narcotics Bureau unearthed solid evidence that "rat pack" member and former detective Glen Hallahan had bankrolled a heroin importation.

Heroin importer John Milligan provided corroborated evidence of Hallahan’s role in financing him. He also alleged Lewis and Murphy were involved with Hallahan as a board of directors, organising crime in Queensland.

Queensland police made a concerted attack to bring down the Narcotics Bureau.

Bureau chief Harvey Bates warned Federal Minister Wal Fife in a secret minute that the Queensland Police had “figured significantly” in “direct attacks” on the bureau.

He said:

"You have now had an opportunity of hearing tapes of some of the extensive debriefing of Milligan undertaken by Bureau officers. In summary, Milligan has alleged that a group in Brisbane comprising senior police officers and an ex-police officer who are involved in illegal activities have extensive contacts in most areas of law enforcement through which they can manipulate or control investigative activities."

He was referring to Lewis, Murphy and Hallahan.

Queensland Supreme Court Judge Ned Williams had been appointed to run a royal commission into drugs. Among his investigators were two of Lewis’s hand-picked officers. In a special "interim" report Williams urged the Federal Government to disband the bureau (pages B162-4 of Book B).

Minister Fife’s department head Tim Besley said he thought the report had been rigged.

He told Fife:

"I have to say I am disturbed at the apparent connection between the Royal Commission and the Queensland Police. It is a fact that during sittings in Brisbane, Queensland police witnesses gave false evidence in respect of Tewantin [a drug investigation in which the bureau had played a major role]."

This reference to false evidence is backed by former (and honest) Queensland detective Jim Slade, who told author Matthew Condon:

“The whole thing was bullshit … That whole thing was worked out by Williams [the drugs inquiry commissioner] and Murphy.” (Jacks and Jokers, UQP, 2014)

Having initiated the Royal Commission, the Federal Government had little option but to agree to the recommendation. The Narcotics Bureau was disbanded.

The next stage in perverting the Royal Commission was for Williams and Cedric Hampson QC, the counsel assisting the Commission, to denigrate the evidence against Hallahan and to exonerate all three members of the "rat pack" without any of the rigour expected of a royal commission (see transcript of 'Williams Royal Commission Special Investigation into Allegations Against Senior Police Officers and Parliamentarians 1980').

I put all the facts supporting this scenario to Hampson QC in an 11-page synopsis in 2011. He told me he had a very hazy memory and that Williams and he had thought Milligan’s story was an invention but he couldn’t really remember.

It was Milligan who alleged the board of directors had met for years “to protect their interests of an illicit kind”, had conducted a conspiracy to get rid of honest police commissioner Ray Whitrod and had compromised Premier Bjelke-Petersen.

A number of questions arise from the perversion of the Royal Commission and the evidence given to it.

In addition to attacking the Narcotics Bureau because of its evidence against Hallahan, did the "rat pack" want it destroyed because their control of SP bookmaking, illegal casinos and prostitution extended to the illegal drug market?

Brothel owner Hector Hapeta was heard, in a secretly-recorded conversation, talking about whether or not bagman Jack Herbert was telling the truth when he told the Fitzgerald Inquiry he knew nothing of any drug network in Queensland.

Hapeta was recorded saying:

“He’s telling lies. They had a drug network all right. I know. I wasn’t allowed to be involved in drugs. He told me that they had a network.”

Fitzgerald reported that the laws concerning the sale of illicit drugs 'are not effectively enforced'. (p362)

"Rat pack" colleague Tony Murphy came under adverse notice in Operation Buckshot, a highly sensitive Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence probe into the importation and distribution of heroin in Australia.

Former Premier Mike Ahern told me that National Crime Authority chairman Donald Stewart had told him that Bjelke-Petersen had refused to grant him the power to serve warrants on Queensland’s Gold Coast to close a drug ring. Stewart said he had been forced to work with Lewis and a detective sergeant Lewis had assigned to the case. When they arrived on the Gold Coast every one of the targets was missing from home and could not be contacted. Never mind, said the sergeant, come home for a cup of tea. He lived in a mansion. A large boat in the yard was named Corruption

I gave Lewis a lot more examples, which pointed to his involvement in the illegal drug trade and asked him questions about the Mr Bigs and the mafia.

Another question arising from the perversion of the Williams Royal Commission is: what hold did the "rat pack" have over Hampson and Williams?

Williams went on to lead the National Crimes Commission and become a member of the International Narcotics Control Board. Having compromised him in some way, what further use did the "rat pack" make of him while he was in these roles?

Can credence be given to Milligan’s statement that the "rat pack" had compromised Bjelke-Petersen?

There are many instances of the Police Special Branch gathering dirt files on people.

Lewis wrote in his diary on 11 May 1981:

'Saw D/I Flanagan re data kept on all MLAs [Queensland MPs], MHRs [Federal MPs] and Senators.'

There were other diary entries:

29 March 1978: Premier mentioned information from a few police re Supt. Murphy setting up Ministers.

27 July 1980: Hon Hinze phoned re any information on Messrs Bishop and White MLAs.

18 July 1983: Phoned Hon Glasson re K. Wright's special branch file. [Wright was leader of the Opposition in Parliament].

The Fitzgerald Report says (p82):

'Lane was a former Special Branch officer and seems to have been able to obtain access to its files himself. On one occasion, he was supplied with information which was used to disadvantage a member of the Australian Labor Party…Lewis provided a similar service on occasions for each of Bjelke-Petersen and Hinze, for whom opponents or critics were investigated.'

In October 1978, Premier Bjelke-Petersen revealed there was, indeed, a dirt file on him which he described as a “muck-raking gutter dossier”. He told Sunday Sun police reporter Brian Bolton he had discovered he was the subject of a police dossier.

Bolton wrote (Sunday Sun 15 October 1978, p1):

'The Premier told me the dossiers contained scandalous and blatantly dishonest accusations which, if ever made public, could ruin the standing and private lives of decent law-abiding citizens.'

I asked Lewis what was in that dossier and how his appointment as Police Commissioner had been engineered.

If the premier had been compromised and was beholden to Lewis in this way, the "rat pack" would have been able to veto action affecting its corrupt operations.

For instance, Bjelke-Petersen made law and order issues a vote winner, yet failed to tackle the illegal drug trade.

In 1980, the drug squad comprised 22 officers (p.1996). In the next nine years, while drug crime soared, its strength rose only to 32 (p239).

In 1979, the Premier advocated mandatory life sentences for drug traffickers, but legislation was not introduced until 1986 (p353).

Fitzgerald reported (p240):

'The Drug Squad had very limited resources until recent small additions, and has inadequate covert surveillance capacity ... the impact on major trafficking and organised crime has been limited.'

So who had the power ­— the premier or the corrupt commissioner?

Lewis will be 89 this month (February) and is probably the only man who has the answers to these and other major questions I have posed to him.

It was back in 2011 when I first knocked on his door with a long list of questions. He told me then that he was unable to talk to me because he had an arrangement with author Matthew Condon.

That arrangement is now over but still Lewis isn’t talking.

You can read more by Steve Bishop at stevebishop.net. The 10,000 word analysis of Lewis’s corruption and the full list of questions is available at stevebishop.net.

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