Canberra paid firms with suspected links to drugs, weapons smuggling: report

Sydney, Australia, Feb 12 (EFE).- Australia’s previous coalition government awarded multimillion-dollar contracts to businesses with suspected links to arms, drugs and human smuggling, among other serious crimes, due to a lack of “proper due diligence” in administration of its offshore detention centers, according to a report published Monday.

“The Richardson report is being released by our government today and it shows that under the former government, it’s possible that hundreds of millions of dollars was funneled from taxpayers into companies which were using that money in part to conduct criminal wrongdoing,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil told public broadcaster ABC, a soundbite of which was posted on her X account.

“We are talking here about things like the trafficking of drugs, the trafficking of human beings, the subversion of sanctions against Iran and other criminal activities. This report raises some very important questions for Peter Dutton,” she said of the former home affairs and defense minister and now opposition leader in a separate video posted to X.

According to ABC, the Australian government launched a review after questions arose about the conduct of the Department of Home Affairs under the Liberal-National Coalition (2013-2022) in their contracts with offshore asylum-seeker processing centers.

The report was authored by former defense chief Dennis Richardson, who concluded that the department lacked “proper due diligence” and noted that “intelligence and other information, which was readily available, was not accessed. As a consequence, integrity risks were not identified.”

Richardson discovered that the department had contractual relationships with one company whose owners were suspected of trying to circumvent US sanctions against Iran and, in addition, against which there were suspicions of money laundering, bribery and other criminal activities.

Likewise, contracts allegedly benefited some companies being investigated by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), a firm whose CEO was being investigated for possible smuggling of drugs and weapons into Australia, and another suspected of corruption.

According to the report, coordination, communication and information flows within the ministry of and other parts of government such as the AFP were “inadequate.”

O’Neil called on Dutton to provide answers.

“Dutton needs to come forward and explain what he knew and when and why he appears to have done nothing about this over the almost decade that the Coalition were in power,” she said. EFE


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