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Bungled Haneef probe cost Australian taxpayers $6.5 million

The bungled investigation of Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef has cost Australian taxpayers a whopping Australian $7.5 million ($$6.5 million).
By Neena Bhandari | IANS, Sydney
UPDATED ON FEB 18, 2008 11:56 AM IST

The bungled investigation of Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef has cost Australian taxpayers a whopping Australian $7.5 million ($$6.5 million), according to official estimates that were made public on Monday.

The revelation comes as the government plans to conduct a judicial inquiry into why Haneef was wrongly charged with supporting a terrorist organisation involved in the failed 2007 British bombings.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty, who has come under fire throughout the failed probe into the former Gold Coast registrar's case, on Monday told a Senate Estimates Committee, "As at the end of December 2007, expenses for the investigation are in excess of $7.5 million. That is made up of approximately $5.5 million of employee expenses of which $1.6 accounts for overtime and approximately $1 million in supply expenses."

Keelty said the AFP investigation of Haneef and the related foiled bomb attacks in Glasgow and London involved 249 AFP officers, 225 Queensland state police, 54 West Australia police, 40 New South Wales police, 12 officers from the Federal Attorney-General's department, six customs officers, two Northern Territory police, one Tasmanian police officer, six translators, four officers from other law-enforcement agencies and two British policemen posted to Australia.

They took more than 300 witness statements and dealt with 16 telephone intercepts, six surveillance devices and 22 search warrants. The police seized 623 gigabytes of computer data and examined 349 forensic samples.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland is expected to announce the details of a judicial inquiry into the Haneef case soon.

Soon after taking over as prime minister last December, Kevin Rudd had said the Labour Party-led government would institute an inquiry into the failed case of Haneef, in a major policy shift from his predecessor John Howard-led coalition government's stand on the Haneef case.

Keelty told the committee, "The AFP welcomes any inquiry into our role in the Haneef inquiry. We have absolutely nothing to hide."

"We have reviewed the Haneef matter as a matter of course and there's nothing that's arisen out of those reviews that have required us to alter our policies, or approaches to those investigations," the AFP Commissioner said, adding that the 28-year-old doctor did not have a case for compensation.

"Every step we have taken has had some form of judicial oversight," Keelty said.

Meanwhile, Liberal Party of Australia Senator George Brandis questioned the move by the federal government to conduct a judicial inquiry into the police handling of the Haneef case while the AFP was continuing its investigation.

Brandis told the media: "It's a little more difficult to understand how a new attorney-general in an incoming government would commit to that course, if he had been briefed by the AFP that the investigation was current."

The AFP, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and former immigration minister Kevin Andrews have all drawn flak for embarrassing faux pas in the failed case of Haneef, who was incarcerated for three weeks after being charged with supporting a terrorist organisation by "recklessly" giving his mobile phone SIM card to people planning the London and Glasgow bombings.

The charges were later dropped and Haneef returned to his family in Bangalore in July last year after Andrews cancelled his work visa.

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