No charges over Labor’s ‘red shirts’ rort

 

Fraud squad detectives have decided not to press criminal charges over Labor's "red shirts" rort after a 15-month probe.

The Herald Sun understands two Labor figures who had been at the centre of the investigation are being informed this morning that they will not face charges.

In a statement, a Victoria Police spokeswoman said: "Victoria Police has today received advice from the Office of Public Prosecutions relating to Operation Ocotillo."

"No charges will be laid against any person in relation to this investigation. The matter is now complete," she said.

The "rorts-for-votes" scheme saw $388,000 of taxpayers' money misused by the Labor Party to part-pay political campaign staff during the 2014 state election.

John Lenders, the architect of the “red shirts” scheme. Picture: Nicole Garmston
John Lenders, the architect of the “red shirts” scheme. Picture: Nicole Garmston

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said the result was a miscarriage of justice and called for advice from the Office of Public Prosecutions to be publicly released.

"Not many Victorians would look at this and see justice being done," Mr O'Brien said.

"The facts were established by the Ombudsman.

"We understand Victoria Police had a very strong brief of evidence.

"Now let's see the advice released."

He also slammed government members who stonewalled the police investigation by not submitting to be interviewed by authorities.

"It is a disgrace that Labor MPs can take $388,000 of money from the public purse for their own political purposes, and no one will be held accountable for it.

"Daniel Andrews and his Labor MPs covered up this theft of taxpayer money and refused to co-operate with police during its investigation.

"Victoria Police and the Office of Public Prosecutions must release all legal advice relating to this decision and fully explain exactly why no charges have been laid. "

 

Michael O'Brien has slammed government members who stonewalled the police investigation into the “red shirts” rort. Picture: Daniel Pockett, AAP Image.
Michael O'Brien has slammed government members who stonewalled the police investigation into the “red shirts” rort. Picture: Daniel Pockett, AAP Image.

 

In February, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton revealed no action would be taken against 16 Labor MPs investigated by police over their role in the scheme.

Despite Premier Daniel Andrews vowing that the government would co-operate with the probe, the MPs had refused police requests to be interviewed.

Mr Patton also cleared 18 Labor campaigners who were arrested last year in dawn raids.

But the heat remained on the scheme's chief architect and former state treasurer John Lenders and his then-adviser Jadon Mintern.

It is understood both were interviewed by fraud squad detectives in relation to potential conspiracy to defraud and making false document offences.

Police launched the probe in the middle of last year after Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass finished her investigation of the rort, first exposed by the Herald Sun in 2015.

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Labor paid back the money in the wake of her report.

Ms Glass had described the ­arrangement of hiring staff for political work as an "artifice" - a cunning device or trick - to milk more money for Labor's campaigning.

Ms Glass's report detailed how Mr Lenders described the 60:40 payment split between ALP and taxpayer resources, and how timesheets were partially done by Mr Mintern.

tom.minear@news.com.au

@tminear