Saturday, March 13, 2004

The Andrew Theophanous case and migration rackets

The weird disconnect that has long hung over the Andrew Theophanous case looks set to continue on, with this news today.

I say “weird disconnect” because the evidence on which the former MP was charged with, and convicted for, always seemed quite straightforward to me – he took bribes in return for providing immigration favours. Yes, there was a “sting” set-up, but considering the type of crime being investigated, such tactics were surely legitimate evidence-gathering, rather than entrapment of the sort that brings on a crime when none would have been committed otherwise.

In terms of penalty, even for someone with no criminal record, this sort of offence is one for which a convicted accused, one who had misused a position of high public office, could expect a lengthy jail sentence. As it turns out, Theophanous was sentenced to a middling six years' jail, with a minimum of 42 months – but ended up serving only 21 months, after successfully appealing (with a retrial being ordered) one of his convictions.

Stranger still, then, is the news that Theophanous may now be facing a situation of seeming double jeopardy – the prosecution wants to morph the pending retrial charge into a number of new charges. I’m not a criminal law expert, and the rules of double jeopardy (= never re-trying an accused for the same crime, assuming that the first trial was above board) are probably criminal law at its most technical, but the timing of the new charges does seem odd, indeed. Methinks that something else must be going on here.

In a loosely-related development, today’s Oz carries a story claiming that Australia has become something of a haven for Chinese white-collar criminals on the run*. In terms of connecting this to migration rackets, there doesn’t seem to be a connection here – rather surprisingly, IMO. If indeed Australia has become such a haven, then this is a worrying development – and not just because of the unfortunate historical echo implicit in Australia again becoming a dumping ground for felons, after such a lengthy hiatus. More serious are the aspersions cast on Australia’s official immigration policy – these criminals seem to have come to Australia through the front door and on an “everything above board” basis.

If this is so, then some of the hidden interstices in the Theophanous case can be drawn in: seemingly-blatant migration rackets may not be all that they seem, and indeed the real rackets may well be going on beneath the deep cover afforded by Australia’s official immigration policy currently.

* Catherine Armitage "Magnet for the most wanted" The Australian 13 March 2004 (no URL)

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