MP summonsed by Australian Federal Police over fraud investigation

FORMER Speaker Peter Slipper is facing charges he misused taxpayer-funded Cabcharge vouchers, after a lengthy investigation by the Australian Federal Police.

Just weeks after sexual harassment allegations were thrown out by the Federal Court, the one-time Liberal MP will face a court in Canberra next month.

After an investigation stretching back to July, the AFP said it had served Mr Slipper with a summons “in relation to three offences of dishonestly causing a risk of a loss to the Commonwealth”.

The alleged offences involve the use of Cabcharge dockets, according to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

They relate to alleged breaches of the Commonwealth Criminal Code and, if proved, carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

Mr Slipper, who three weeks ago won a major legal victory after the Federal Court threw out sexual harassment allegations, is due to appear in the Canberra Magistrates Court on February 15.

The Opposition Leader says the latest development involving Peter Slipper exposes the Prime Minister’s lack of judgment.

After his stunning court win in December, he now faces the prospect of defending allegations that he defrauded the Commonwealth through the use of taxpayer-funded Cabcharge dockets.

Mr Slipper’s former adviser, James Ashby, alleged that he witnessed the former Speaker signing a series of blank Cabcharge dockets during trips to Sydney in early 2012.

It is not known whether the AFP legal action relates to these matters. Last night, police said it would “not be appropriate to comment further at this time“.

Mr Ashby was interviewed by the AFP shortly after he filed allegations of sexual harassment against his former boss in April.

Police spent three months investigating a series of allegations involving Mr Slipper’s use of entitlements before referring matters to the Commonwealth DPP.

In a statement, the DPP’s office said it could “confirm that the AFP have sworn an information and summons which alleges three offences against section 135.1(5) of the Criminal Code (Cth) in relation to allegations concerning the use of Cabcharges by Mr Slipper”.

The DPP said it would be “inappropriate to comment further” as the matter was before the Canberra Magistrates Court.

Mr Slipper resigned as speaker in October, after the publication of graphic and lewd text messages.

They were published as part of the sexual harassment case brought by his former staffer, Mr Ashby, which was dismissed by Justice Steven Rares who ruled it was part of a campaign to inflict political damage on the ex-speaker.

News Limited understands the Finance Department, which polices parliamentary entitlements, initially referred allegations involving Cabcharge to the AFP.

This suggests the court matters may not relate to the allegations brought forward by Mr Ashby, which involved a Sydney-based hire car driver.

The former Liberal MP, who now sits in parliament as an independent, has been forced to repay more than $20,000 in family travel and other entitlement perks over the years.

(Source: Steve Lewis, Daily Telegraph, 8 January 2013)

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