Extradition case 'casts shadow on relations'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 12:00am

Law enforcement officers yesterday cast doubt on claims by Australian Justice Minister Chris Ellison that his refusal to surrender two men wanted on bribery and corruption charges had not affected relations between the two sides.

Facing another day of criticism in the Senate yesterday, Senator Ellison reaffirmed his decision and said there was 'nothing untoward' in his refusal not to explain his action.

'I have had no one indicate to me that [international co-operation] has in any way been impaired,' he said.

But senior officials from the Justice Department, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Hong Kong Police and the Security Bureau maintained they were still 'totally in the dark' over the 11th-hour reprieve.

In an unprecedented move, Senator Ellison used his executive powers to quash an extradition request for the surrender of Australians Carl Voigt and David Roger Hendy.

Hong Kong's extradition request for the two men had earlier being approved by Australian courts.

'Mystified is a good way to describe it,' one senior Interpol officer said in Hong Kong. 'Anyone with common sense can clearly see it does undermine our relationship.'

The officer said the decision had cast a dark shadow over future negotiations.

'At the law enforcement and judicial level, we do have a good relationship with Australia. That is why this intervention at the executive level is so very rare and has left us all mystified as to his reasons.'

A statement by the Hong Kong government last night said: 'Naturally, we are very concerned about the refusal to extradite Mr Voigt and Mr Hendy.

'That is why we are examining the details of the cases and the implications with a view to determining the way forward.'