Australia's ex-intelligence boss charged with mishandling classified documents

SYDNEY (AFP) - A former top Australian intelligence official has been charged with mishandling classified documents, officials said on Thursday (Oct 24), years after his home was raided during an investigation into Chinese influence operations.

Police and government officials said Roger Uren appeared in court on Wednesday over mishandling sensitive intelligence. He is believed to be facing around 30 charges.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation - the main domestic spy agency - raided Uren's Canberra home in October 2015 and uncovered a stash of classified files.

Uren had been the deputy head of the now-defunct Office of National Assessments, which provided intelligence analysis to Australia's prime minister, and was once considered a possible ambassador to China.

Around the time of the raid, his Chinese-Australian wife Sheri Yan, a fixer and lobbyist, was arrested in the United States on bribery charges.

She pleaded guilty and was jailed in 2016 for conspiring to bribe former UN General Assembly president John Ashe.

Australian MP Andrew Hastie last year used his parliamentary privilege to claim the US$200,000 (S$272,000) bribe was provided by Chinese Communist Party-linked businessman Chau Chak Wing, who has denied the allegations and sued media organisations for making similar claims.

The Australian Federal Police on Thursday said Uren was arrested last week and appeared before an Australian Capital Territory court "in relation to allegations he illegally dealt with classified intelligence information".

"The AFP (Australian Federal Police) investigation alleges unauthorised removal and retention of classified intelligence information from the man's place of employment," a spokesman said in a statement.

ABC previously reported that the "highly classified" files laid out what Western spy agencies knew about Chinese intelligence operations.

Uren was granted bail and ordered to reappear in court in February next year.