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Entire ABF unit disbanded over corruption fears

An entire unit of the Australian Border Force which was investigating a major NSW drug syndicate been disbanded because of corruption concerns.

Suspicions were raised during a recent operation that one of the ABF's covert sections had been compromised and the allegations have now been referred to an independent body to be investigated.

"The Australian Border Force can confirm that the Special Operations capability has been paused,'' an ABF spokesman said yesterday.

"The pause is to facilitate a review of administration and capability.''

The Daily Telegraph understands the use of a criminal informants, as well and the improper use of listening devices without authority, are part of the allegations.

The ABF declined to elaborate about what sparked the review of the unit.

"The ABF recognises that this decision could cause some uncertainty and concern for affected officers and continues to work with affected officers to ensure they are supported while transitioning to temporary new roles while the reviews are undertaken," the spokesman said.

"No staff have been dismissed or suspended as a result of the pause.''

The ABF statement was provided to The Telegraph shortly after Home Minister Peter Dutton was contacted about the allegations.

Home Minister Peter Dutton was contacted over the allegations. Picture: Gary Ramage
Home Minister Peter Dutton was contacted over the allegations. Picture: Gary Ramage

NSW police said they could not comment on the allegations as they were a matter for the ABF.

In recent years, the Australian Border Force has expanded its role from being traditionally customs officers to that of an investigative law enforcement body similar to the Australian Federal Police.

An investigation into the corruption allegations of the units is now underway by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, which has oversight of federal law enforcement bodies.

Earlier this month, ACLEI published a report where it found an Australian Federal Police officer was paid to provide information to a criminal syndicate. Operation Ruby was a joint investigation between ACLEI, the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police, into suspicions that members of the AFP were helping criminal syndicates import drugs into Australia.

Charles Waterstreet and his client, former police officer Ben Hampton (centre) at Downing Center Court in Sydney. Picture: Richard Dobson
Charles Waterstreet and his client, former police officer Ben Hampton (centre) at Downing Center Court in Sydney. Picture: Richard Dobson

"As with other investigations conducted by ACLEI into its jurisdictional agencies Operation Ruby found an instance where an AFP member misused their access to an official database by providing information to a criminal syndicate," said Jaala Hinchcliffe, head of the commission.

The investigation found former AFP officer Benjamin Hampton misused his access to an official database and was paid up to $7000 for providing information to a criminal syndicate.

The investigation also uncovered evidence that Hampton provided AFP training material to a former member of the AFP to train overseas security officers. Ms Hinchcliffe found that Mr Hampton engaged in corrupt conduct, namely, abuse of office, when he released sensitive information to an associate and was rewarded financially.

"Staff members of law enforcement agencies should never access information for personal reasons or to assist associates," Ms Hinchcliffe said.

Mr Hampton was convicted as a result of Operation Ruby and his employment with the AFP was terminated. Last July, a court ordered him to forfeit $306,643 of his superannuation to the Commonwealth. A crime syndicate member was jailed in 2015 for seeking information from Mr Hampton as well as charges related to his role in commercial drug supply.

Originally published as Entire ABF unit disbanded over corruption fears


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