SYDNEY, Dec 19 (Reuters/AFP) – A senior media adviser for Australian lawmaker and mining magnate Clive Palmer, whose party holds the balance of power in the Upper House Senate, was charged on Friday over the kidnapping of a bank executive on an Indonesian island.The charges allege that adviser Andrew Crook, former sports star Tony Smith and former senior detective Mick Featherstone lured the unidentified National Australia Bank executive to Singapore and then on to Indonesia’s Batam Island, using the pretence of a high-paying job offer from Mr Palmer.
Once on the island, the executive was strip-searched, detained by fake Indonesian security officials and threatened with violence before recording a video recanting evidence given in a A$70 million (S$75 million) court case between NAB and Smith, a former Australian Football League player.
Police said Mr Palmer, who has become one of Australia’s most polarising political figures since being elected in 2013, had no knowledge of the plot. “This is one of the most elaborate and perhaps desperate schemes I’ve come across in 35 years of policing,” Detective Inspector Phil Stevens told reporters. “It reads like a Hollywood script.”
Mr Palmer told Reuters by telephone that he had “no idea, no knowledge” of the matter. He told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “it’s a black day for Australia if any of this ... has anything to do with political freedom in this country.”
Queensland Police Detective Superintendent Michael Nilan said any suggestion the charges had anything to do with politics was “utter nonsense”.
The Queensland Police Service said in a statement: "The charges stem from an elaborate scheme which police will allege was planned partly in Queensland with key elements executed in Singapore and Indonesia before returning to Queensland where the offences were committed."
The matter caps a rollercoaster year for Mr Palmer. His Palmer United Party controls the balance of power in the Senate, giving him leverage over Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s conservative government on several key issues.
However, Mr Palmer is also embroiled in a legal dispute with Citic Pacific over the Chinese company’s mining rights to the US$9.6 billion (S$12.6 billion) Sino Iron Project in Western Australia.Police are in contact with Smith’s lawyers and he is expected to return to Australia from Indonesia.Police said further charges are expected to be laid. The case came to light as part of a year-long investigation into motorcycle gang crime in Queensland state.National Australia Bank said it gave police “details of unsolicited approaches made to an employee regarding evidence they gave in a civil court trial involving a former customer”.The bank said the employee had been concerned “for their own safety and that of their family”.