Crikey reporter Sophie Black writes:


The Commonwealth
Director of Public Prosecutions, Damian Bugg QC, believes he doesn’t
have the power to demand the Robert Gerard brief from the Australian Tax Office, or any brief from any agency for that matter. But there’s no harm in asking nicely.

Bugg
told February’s Senate Estimates Committee “We are totally dependent on
what is referred to us by the 40-odd agencies who refer matters to us
following their investigation”. But when asked by Senator Ludwig if
that stopped the DPP from even inquiring about a brief, Bugg conceded,
“I suppose it is possible for me, or someone in the region, to ring up
and say: ‘Is this matter coming our way? There’s been a fair amount of
publicity in the press’.”

It appears that the DPP hasn’t asked
the ATO a single question about the highest profile case of tax fraud
to come out of the organisation in years. As Peter Faris QCwrote in Tuesday’s Crikey, it’s “unthinkable that the ATO would refuse such a request”.

Earlier this week Crikey sent these questions to the DPP’s office:

  • Did you ever ask the ATO to refer the Gerard case brief to you? If not, why not?
  • Could you still choose to request the brief and do you intend to?
  • Was there ever any discussion at all with the ATO about this case,
    whether it be in liaison meetings or in general conversation over other
    matters?
  • Do you consider the Gerard case, with its large settlement, and highly public profile, to be of relevance to the DPP?
  • Are you concerned that by not looking into the case you are
    creating the impression that you have been pressured politically not to
    do so?
  • Do you think that the ATO should have referred the case, given the information on the public record about the Gerard case?
  • If the onus is on the ATO to refer cases to you, do you think there
    is a problem with the low number of, and the nature of, referrals
    coming from the ATO? Does the system need to change?

The DPP’s office finally responded today, telling us that Mr Bugg had nothing further to add to his original statement at the Senate Estimates Hearing.

Peter Fray

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