Inquiry targets NSW police corruption

December 2, 1992

By Peter Anderson

SYDNEY — With the aid of detailed information from a couple of well-know Sydney "crims," the commission that brought about Nick Greiner's departure from state politics has turned its attention to corruption within the New South Wales' police force.

Arthur Stanley "Neddy" Smith and Graeme John "Abbo" Henry are the star witnesses at the inquiry by the state's Independent Commission Against Corruption, headed by Ian Temby QC. They have revealed the activities of (former) detectives from the Armed Hold-up Squad who allegedly supplied information enabling them to commit a series of hold-ups in the 1980s that netted millions of dollars.

Currently in the Commission's sights are corrupt former detective Roger Rogerson and Detective Lance William Chaffey. Rogerson is known to have had a close relationship — "mates", according to Rogerson — with Neddy Smith, who was one of his, Rogerson's, key informants during his time as a detective.

Smith, who refused to name Rogerson, reportedly admitted he used a former corrupt association with Chaffey to force him to reveal information about operation Zig Zag in 1987, which was set up to investigate Smith. Chaffey allegedly used Rogerson to pass on information to Smith about the investigation. Central to the ICAC investigation is an alleged meeting between Rogerson, Chaffey, Smith and Smith's associate Glen Flack at Doyalson RSL Club on the NSW Central Coast.

When the public inquiry began on November 16, it heard allegations that police officers were paid according to their participation in passing on information helpful to armed hold-ups. Police officers had allegedly suggested some robberies, in some cases had provided plans of premises and details of alarms, had passed on information gained from advising businesses on security, had supplied police uniforms to gang members, and had passed on information about payrolls.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Barry Toomey QC, said Smith had made it clear from the outset he would not name a particular officer whom he alleged was deeply involved in criminal activities. According to the November 17 Sydney Morning Herald, the commission concluded the identity of the officer Smith was trying to protect was Rogerson, who now looms large in the investigation.

According to Toomey, the ICAC inquiry was launched after Smith, serving a term of life imprisonment for murder, approached the commission in January last year with complaints about how police had treated him. Arrangement were made to indemnify him from prosecution on charges other than murder. Henry volunteered information to the commission in August last year and got a similar indemnity.

However, the ICAC inquiry could miss the plot completely, and waste millions of dollars of public money, if it simply targets a small handful of "bad cops", according to the criminal justice group

As early as August 1990 the CEFTAA magazine Framed exposed the activities of the Armed Hold-up Squad in an article described by police at the time as "criminal defamation". In just one such instance, Roger Rogerson used drug dealer, business associate and police informer Neddy Smith to pass on police information on payroll deliveries (gained through police security checks) to crims such as Warren Lanfranchi (later shot dead by Rogerson).

One crucial question is whether commission head Ian Temby will look into the full range of corrupt practices of members of the old Armed Hold Up Squad, including those currently holding senior rank. Another is whether it is possible to take seriously an inquiry into armed hold-up detectives which does not also investigate their fabrication of evidence and trade in illegal drugs.

In current ICAC hearings an impression may be emerging of a few "bad cops" frustrating the "good cops" within the squad. This is a dangerously naive idea, according to CEFTAA. The ICAC investigators would not have to look very far to find evidence of the following broad areas of corruption, which it seems have so far not appeared in their brief:

  • Armed hold up squad detectives have been fabricating "confessions" for decades. Last year Rogerson publicly admitted that "verballing" was a systematic practice: "Verbals are part of police culture ... police would think you're weak if you didn't do it" (Sun-Herald, October 13, 1991). Perjury is a criminal offence which in NSW carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, but it is apparently "acceptable" practice in this form in NSW criminal courts.

  • Rogerson last year also admitted that he and his colleagues regularly planted evidence on suspects, including guns and explosives (Four Corners, September 1991). Many of his colleagues have been accused, often with substantial supporting evidence, of "loading up" suspects with drugs. This planting of evidence is a serious crime and "corrupt" in itself, but there is the additional question: where did they get these drugs, guns and explosives from? A separate ICAC investigation is now considering claims by former police minister Pickering that police were stealing confiscated drugs for resale.

  • The involvement of detectives in substantial heroin importations must also be looked at. Neddy Smith was not simply an "informant" to Rogerson and his buddies: he was a useful business associate, especially in the drug trade. It is not yet clear whether ICAC plans to investigate the Pelair scandal, involving Rogerson and others.

  • While drugs have been a useful tool of control to "load up" suspects, and a useful source of income for some detectives, they have also been used to extract protection money and "commissioned" statements from junkie informers. If ICAC offered indemnities to those who have been paying protection money to ndoubtedly have many more offers of assistance.

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