Australian police on Tuesday raided the offices of a commercial television network and magazine stable to prevent a tell-all interview deal with convicted drug trafficker Schapelle Corby, who was paroled in Indonesia last week.
The action was meant to prevent Corby from profiting fro her life story, and Australian Federal Police Agence France-Presse in confirmed they were enforcing proceeds of crime laws when they executed search warrants at Seven Network headquarters in downtown Sydney on Tuesday.
Schapelle Corby has been holed up in an expensive Bali resort since she was released on parole from a nearby Indonesian prison last week.
The 36-year-old Australian has been negotiating with media companies over a deal to sell her story about being caught at a Bali airport with 4.2kg of marijuana in her surfboard bag and spending the next nine years in Bali’s Kerobokan prison.
Under Australian law, courts can seize all the profits a criminal makes from any book or media interview deals. Police must first apply for the confiscation order under Australia’s Proceeds of Crime Act.
“As this matter is ongoing, it is not appropriate for the AFP to comment any further,” a spokesperson said.
Seven Network employees said the police descended on their Sydney offices with a search warrant related to their reported securing of an exclusive interview with Corby, which reportedly cost A$2.7 million.
“At about 8.55am at least a dozen AFP officers raided the Seven West Media headquarters at Jones Bay,” tweeted Seven employee Gus Bruno.
“AFP served a search warrant in relation to a possible proceeds of crime investigation into dealings between Schapelle and @sundaynighton7,” said, referring to the current affairs programme Sunday Night reported to have secured the tell-all deal.
Veteran Seven Network journalist Mike Willesee, who was in Bali holed up in the same villa as Corby and her entourage following her parole, said the raids would “finally nail the lie of the two million dollar payment” being speculated by the Australian media.
“[The police] will find nothing. They will find no payment because there is no payment,” said Willesee. “We’ve positioned ourselves to be the first in line if there is an interview. There is no deal.”
Seven also reported that the network was co-operating with police.
In an online story about the raids, Seven News said police also conducted a raid on the Pacific Magazines office in central Sydney.
The magazine group, which publishes the popular gossip title New Idea, reportedly joined forces with Seven to pay a seven-figure deal to Corby, which is yet to be confirmed by either outlet.
Watch: Corby is released after years in jail
Seven reporter Damien Smith, who was present at the raids with a camera crew, said it was “no secret that Sunday Night has been the frontrunner in seeking rights to get an exclusive interview”.
“This warrant has come at a time when Indonesian officials are telling Schapelle that she could go back to jail if she does an interview,” he said.
Indonesian authorities have warned Corby that any interview could breach her parole conditions which stipulate she must not cause unrest. She remains in Indonesia on parole until 2017 and can be returned to prison to complete her sentence in that time.
Corby had always maintained her innocence and denied knowledge of who put the marijuana in her bag. Telling of that story has already brought the Corby family in conflict with the proceeds of crime act.
In 2007, a court in her home state of Queensland ordered Corby, her sister Mercedes and Mercedes’ Indonesian husband Wayan Widyartha to hand over A$128,800 they earned from a book and magazine interview deal.
Corby would be the highest-profile target for a proceeds of crime suit since David Hicks, the first Guantanamo Bay prisoner inmate to be convicted of war crimes.
Hicks wrote a book about his experiences in the US military prison on Cuba, despite a former Australian government specifically amending proceeds of crime law to ensure that it applied to convictions by US military commissions.
But prosecutors dropped the suit against Hicks in 2012, citing legal complications.More on this: