Photographs and documents related to bags seized as part of an AFP investigation into Sydney airport baggage handlers in 2004 around the time of Schapelle Corby’s arrest will not be made public after an Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision blocking a freedom of information request.
Passionate advocates for Corby’s innocence in Australia are continuing the fight to try to uncover evidence to overturn her 2005 conviction for importation of 4.2kg of cannabis into Indonesia in a bodyboard bag, for which Corby spent nine years in Kerobokan prison in Bali before being released on parole in 2014.
One avenue being pursued by the Corby advocates is seeking to uncover whether bags containing cocaine obtained as part of the Operation Mocha investigation by the AFP and the NSW Crime Commission into drug smuggling in Sydney airport around the time of the Corby arrest could have also contained the cannabis later discovered in Corby’s bodyboard bag when it arrived in Indonesia.
The allegation is that the drugs could have been transferred to Corby’s bag from one of the other bags at the airport before it was flown to Bali.
An FOI request was filed with the AFP more than two years ago seeking access to the photographs of the two bags, along with police documentation of the bags taken at the time they were seized. AFP blocked the release of the documents on the grounds it could prejudice an ongoing investigation, and after a lengthy review of the case, in December 2015, the Information Commissioner agreed with the AFP’s finding.
The case made it to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, on the grounds that the evidence should be considered as part of the Corby case, not the Operation Mocha investigations into the Sydney Airport drug-smuggling ring.
The AAT ruled in September that the documents would again not be released. The AFP argued that because there was an outstanding arrest warrant and an Interpol Red Alert for one person involved in connection with the original investigations, if criminal prosecution is sought, then the release of documents related to the investigation would potentially prejudice the case, and not give the court the option to decide whether or not to suppress the documents when, or if, a trial eventually goes ahead.
The AAT agreed and said it was “simply not relevant” to consider whether the evidence was connected to the Corby case. The man behind the FOI, Dr Adrian Bradford, asked the AAT to “direct”the AFP to investigate whether baggage handlers at Sydney Airport were responsible for placing cannabis into Corby’s luggage, and to release a media statement advising the public that such an investigation was underway.
The AAT responded that it had “no jurisdiction” to direct the AFP in such a way.
Corby will finish her parole period in Indonesia next year and will be deported back to Australia.