SA-BEST demands Royal Commission into ICAC and calls for ICAC Commissioner’s sacking

9 November 2022

SA-BEST today demanded the State Government commits to a Royal Commission into the operations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) after deeply disturbing revelations of its flawed investigative practices were revealed in court over its pursuit of former senior government bureaucrat John Hanlon. 

SA-BEST MLC Frank Pangallo – who introduced comprehensive reforms that overhauled the ICAC Act last year – also called for the ICAC Commissioner, Ann Vanstone KC, to either resign or be sacked by the State Government over her role in the matter, along with her Head of Investigations, Andrew Baker, who was in charge of the “witch hunt.” 

His call follows today’s announcement by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Martin Hinton KC, that he had dropped charges against Mr Hanlon – the former Renewal SA CEO - after a four year “wild goose chase” over alleged corruption. 

And he labelled as “face saving” the DPP’s decision to enter a nolle prosequi and not drop the charges entirely. 

In recent days, bombshell revelations have been disclosed in the District Court including: 

  • ICAC hid evidence (phone data) for three years which supported Mr Hanlon’s version of events but did not disclose it to his legal team or DPP prosecutors until last week.
  • ICAC investigators knew they breached international law by travelling to Germany to interview witnesses without the consent of that country’s government and failed to follow advice from the Australian Government.
  • ICAC investigators admitted they had known for several years the evidence they obtained in Germany from the witnesses was inadmissible – yet failed to disclose the facts. 

“Make no mistake. This is one of the South Australia’s biggest criminal justice scandals. If people can’t trust our legal system to get a fair outcome, who can they trust?” Frank asked. 

“A terrible and almost tragic miscarriage of justice has narrowly been averted,” he said. 

“As a journalist for more than 40 years before entering politics even I was stunned and disturbed by the secret and dirty tricks used by ICAC to get an outcome which were exposed in court.

 “It’s so ironic that ICAC calls itself a commission against corruption. 

“ICAC and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions - two institutions that we should have confidence in – have failed again in this landmark case. 

“ICAC was caught out abusing its powers and the Office of the DPP appearing to have acted incompetently on incomplete information in their relentless pursuit of Mr Hanlon, a once distinguished public servant whose career they have ruined. 

“There is no excuse. No way out. The State is supposed to be a model litigant. 

“And don’t think for a minute this is just a one off. I am informed by reputable legal sources this is merely the tip of an iceberg concerning ICAC’s conduct. 

“Heads must roll – starting with ICAC Commissioner, Ms Vanstone, whose position is now surely untenable as she herself told a Parliamentary committee she had oversight investigations and the briefs supplied to the DPP. 

“There are also serious questions for the DPP himself, Martin Hinton KC; former ICAC Bruce Lander KC; his former deputy, Michael Riches, who is now the Northern Territory ICAC Commissioner; former Attorney General Vickie Chapman; and now Supreme Court Judge, Sandi McDonald SC, who as Acting DPP Director, had Mr Hanlon charged ex-officio after she had earlier endorsed a ‘no-case to answer’ against him and another Renewal SA senior executive, Georgina Vasilevski, in the Magistrates Court.” 

Frank said Attorney General, Kyam Maher, now needed to declare whether he has confidence in any of them. 

And he hoped South Australians would now fully understand why Parliament unanimously endorsed his legislative reforms of the anti-corruption agency. 

Frank said: “It seems after this we may not have gone far enough. 

“Today I am demanding the Malinauskas Government supports my call for a Royal Commission into ICAC’s conduct, investigations and operations going back to its first bungled case involving the innocent police officers from Sturt Mantle in 2014,” he said. 

“I will also ask the Attorney General to compel the ICAC to make full discovery of its investigations to the Crown and the Defence – or face severe criminal penalties if it fails to do so. 

“It is not above the law or above the Parliament. 

“Mr Hanlon and the other innocent victims of failed ICAC witch hunts can only try to pick up the shattered pieces of their ruined lives, ruined reputations and ruined careers in the public service. 

“They will remain forever mentally scarred. So will their families. 

“What has been exposed by the brilliant work of Mr Hanlon’s legal team - led by David Edwardson KC and Matthew Selley - is yet another failed ICAC investigation and prosecution that has exposed the taxpayers of South Australia yet again to millions of dollars wasted in legal costs and likely compensation. 

“For how much longer should we tolerate an integrity body lacking integrity?”

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