Former AFL player Tony Smith. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Former AFL player Tony Smith. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Three high-profile men in court over alleged kidnap plot

A FORMER AFL player, a media adviser and a cop-turned-private investigator have appeared in a Brisbane court charged with attempting to pervert justice and defraud a major bank in relation to an alleged kidnapping plot.

Former Sydney Swans player Tony Smith, Clive Palmer's media adviser Andrew Crook and private investigator Michael Featherstone are alleged to have been involved in a kidnap plot.

Each is charged with attempting to pervert justice on November 27, 2014, and attempting to defraud National Australia Bank of more than $30,000 in 2013.

A charge of retaliation against a witness was dropped by the Crown.

The men today faced the first day of a committal hearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court.

Former AFL player Tony Smith. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Former AFL player Tony Smith. Picture: Steve Pohlner

It is alleged all three men were involved in a kidnapping plot in which NAB executive Adam Gazal was lured to the remote Indonesian island of Batam in January, 2013.

Mr Gazal believed he was there for an interview for a high paying job working for Clive Palmer, but was instead allegedly confronted by Smith - a former NAB client of his, police allege.

Mr Palmer was not involved in the alleged plot in any way and had no knowledge of the incident.

Police have alleged Mr Smith forced Mr Gazal to record a false confession that he'd lied during a 2012 civil trial.

Smith took NAB to court after losing $68 million on a Gold Coast building project and in shares.

After making the recording, the banker was allowed to leave. He reported the incident to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Court documents have revealed the "confession" recording and transcript was sent to the NAB.

Mr Gazal will be called to be cross-examined when the committal hearing resumes in Brisbane Magistrates Court on May 12.

Five witnesses were today cross-examined, including Mr Gazal's wife, Liana Gazal, who gave her evidence by phone from Hong Kong.

Mrs Gazal was questioned about the notes she typed up for her husband as he recounted what had happened, after he went for the "job interview".

Mrs Gazal said her husband was in shock and could not function properly so she typed up what he told her on a computer, over two days, before they returned to Hong Kong.

Paul O'Neill, NAB's manager of major crime investigations and forensic services unit, told of taking a statement from Mr Gazal in Hong Kong over several days in 2015.

The ex-NSW police officer said he kept an open mind while taking Mr Gazal's statement about what had occurred on the Indonesian island.

When asked if he assumed Mr Gazal had been telling the truth, Mr O'Neill said: "Not at first".

He said he asked Mr Gazal a couple of times on the first day whether what he was telling him was all true and the next morning he assured him it was.

The court heard police were first told of the alleged incident involving Mr Gazal when a senior NAB executive called them on January 26, 2013.

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Nathan McIntosh said an investigation commenced but a decision was made not to proceed.

It was only after a search warrant was executed on Featherstone's company Phoenix Global's premises for another matter and forensic images were taken from computer records that police began investigating Mr Gazal's claims.

Crook and Featherstone were charged with three offences in December, 2014, and Smith was charged with the same offences in January, 2015, after he returned from overseas and presented himself to police.

All three exercised their right to remain silent when charged, the court heard.

The committal hearing will continue from May 12 to 15.

Smith, Crook and Featherstone, who are each defending the charges, are on bail.


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