Joh trial foreman was National official

Wednesday, October 23, 1991

By Bill Mason

BRISBANE, October 20 — The perjury trial of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen came to a sensational end yesterday with a hung jury and revelations that the jury foreman was a National Party branch official, with alleged links to the Friends of Joh campaign.

District Court Judge John Helman discharged the jury last night after its foreman had twice stated there was no prospect of reaching a unanimous verdict.

Earlier that day, the prosecution had called for dismissal of the jury on the grounds that the foreman was a former branch secretary of the Young Nationals, an active National Party member and a contact person for the Friends of Joh Association. According to prosecutor Nick Cowdrey, these facts should cause the presiding judge "very grave disquiet that such a person could reach an impartial verdict".

Judge Helman also revealed that he had taken the precaution before the trial began of using a different jury panel because "certain things concerning the originally scheduled panel" were brought to his attention. He said he had referred these matters to the sheriff, who would investigate.

-2>Bjelke-Petersen was facing charges of perjury relating to testimony to the Fitzgerald Inquiry. The trial heard evidence he had lied about his knowledge of Singapore businessman Robert Sng's plans for development of a major hotel site in Brisbane in 1986.0>

Sng had handed $100,000 in cash to Joh in a brown paper bag, and another $100,00 to the National Party. Later the Sng project had been selected by the National government as preferred option, against expert advice.

Special prosecutor Doug Drummond has refused to state at this stage whether another trial will be ordered. n

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