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Former top cop accuses Minister of corruption -

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Former top cop accuses Minister of corruption

Alison Caldwell reported this story on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 12:38:00

ELEANOR HALL: To Melbourne now and the former assistant commissioner of police, Noel Ashby, says a
Victorian Cabinet minister tipped him off about the secret investigation into former police union
secretary Paul Mullett.

Noel Ashby, who had perjury charges against him dropped yesterday, says the Roads Minister Tim
Pallas once warned him against speaking to the former union chief because he was under

Victoria's chief commissioner of police has slammed the claim, describing it as implausible. He
says there was no conspiracy to get rid of either Noel Ashby or the union secretary.

But speaking at length for the first time since he was cleared, Mr Ashby says he believes he was
political collateral in the campaign to get Paul Mullett.

In Melbourne, Alison Caldwell has our report.

ALISON CALDWELL: Having cleared his name in the courts, this morning a confident Noel Ashby visited
ABC Local Radio in Melbourne in an attempt to clear his name with the public.

Asked if he had lied when he was giving evidence at the OPI (Office of Police Integrity) hearing in

NOEL ASHBY: No, not at all, at no stage did I commit wilful and corrupt perjury. There was
discrepancies in my evidence, I acknowledge that, the discrepancies were on areas that were quite
peripheral to what my core duties were at that time.

ALISON CALDWELL: In numerous secretly recorded telephone conversations played to the hearing, Ashby
can be heard talking about police officers who are under investigation. At the time the officers
were under surveillance as part of a murder investigation known as Operation Briars.

This morning, he was asked if he thought it was acceptable to compromise a police investigation.

NOEL ASHBY: Um, it can be wrong, but we weren't talking about who was under investigation, that's
the point. We were talking about where someone was at that given time, "where's member X at the
moment? What's he doing? Oh, I don't know I haven't seen him for ages. I think he's doing that".

That was the nature of the conversations.

ALISON CALDWELL: Noel Ashby repeated his calls for a judicial inquiry into allegations of a
conspiracy involving former chief commissioner Christine Nixon, current police chief commissioner
Simon Overland and various politicians, including Roads Minister Tim Pallas.

Noel Ashby claims Tim Pallas warned him to be careful when speaking to Police Association secretary
Paul Mullett. At the time Tim Pallas was then Premier Steve Bracks' chief of staff.

NOEL ASHBY: One was verbal and then he put his hands over his mouth, his finger over his mouth.

ALISON CALDWELL: Challenged as to his interpretation of what that meant, Noel Ashby said he put two
and two together soon after.

NOEL ASHBY: When summonses were ultimately issued, we were told you weren't allowed to have any
contact with the Police Association, you weren't allowed to have Police Association lawyers and
that rung a bell emergency in my brain.

ALISON CALDWELL: And Noel Ashby agreed with the suggestion that he was collateral damage in the
campaign to get rid of Paul Mullett.

NOEL ASHBY: It's one of the theories that's available, I could have also been a primary target.

ALISON CALDWELL: Moments later, Office of Police Integrity director Michael Strong was next in the
chair. Describing the collapse of the case against Ashby as a setback, Mr Strong denied the
allegations that the OPI hearings were politically motivated.

MICHAEL STRONG: This investigation commenced as a result of concerns, real concerns about the
possible compromise of a murder investigation in which a member of the police force close to the
Police Association was a personal, person of interest.

There were then concerns about Mr Ashby's inappropriate interest in that investigation, bearing in
mind that he was the assistant director for traffic, his inappropriate interest in that
investigation, his inappropriate interest in telephone intercepts, the exchange of information,
totally inappropriate between him and Linnell and some of his conversations with Mr Mullett.

To suggest that this was some sort of witch hunt, I mean I wasn't here at the time, but looking
back on it now, it's perfectly understandable to me why this operation was launched.

ALISON CALDWELL: Noel Ashby also claims he was targeted because he says he was the prime contender
to replace former chief commissioner of police Christine Nixon, in direct competition with then
deputy commissioner Simon Overland.

The man who eventually replaced Christine Nixon, Simon Overland, also spoke to ABC Local Radio in

SIMON OVERLAND: If there was, and I say if, there was this desire for Noel Ashby not to be the next
chief commissioner, why not just run a process and not appoint him. As best I can see they stringed
together a whole series of events in a very loose way and then jumped to some quite astounding

Now if they've got evidence I haven't seen it, they haven't produced it, they keep making these
accusations, it sounds to me like a conspiracy theory. My experience of conspiracy theories is
very, very, very rarely is there a lot of substance to them.

ALISON CALDWELL: And to allegations that the Roads Minister Tim Pallas tipped Noel Ashby off about
a confidential police investigation:

SIMON OVERLAND: My own assessment based on certain events that happened is that seems to me to be

ALISON CALDWELL: A short time ago, Victoria's Police Minister Bob Cameron said Noel Ashby should
produce the evidence if he has any.

BOB CAMERON: Tim Pallas has been very, very clear that this just didn't happen and he has not been
involved in impropriety. Where there are matters of investigation they should be reported, should
be reported to police, should be reported to the OPI, depending on the circumstances, or to the

ELEANOR HALL: That's Victoria's Police Minister Bob Cameron ending that report from Alison