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Old 1st Jun 2005, 17:20   #1 (permalink)
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Join Date: Apr 2004
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Qantas security chief sacked

Qantas security chief sacked
By Kate McClymont
June 2, 2005

A disgraced former drug detective who was mentioned adversely during the police royal commission in 1996 has been sacked as a security manager at Qantas. He was stood down following a security review conducted by the airline.

In evidence before the commission, Alan Conwell, the former officer with the Drug Enforcement Agency, was caught on phone taps trying to help a criminal associate of fugitive Michael Hurley avoid prosecution.

An international search is under way for Hurley and his associate, Les Mara, over allegations they used Qantas baggage handlers to smuggle cocaine into Australia from South America.

The 1996 commission heard intercepted calls of a criminal, Norm Beves, organising a meeting with Mr Conwell after police had questioned him about the theft of perfume worth $8000 from a duty-free shop.

It also heard evidence that Mr Conwell, then a detective on a salary of $30,000 a year with an $800-a-month mortgage and three children, was able to pay for $130,000 worth of renovations to his house - most of it in cash. He was also able to take his family on an overseas holiday and a cruise around the Pacific.

Mr Conwell said he had been able to fund his lifestyle with his gambling winnings and a money borrowed from his father, Keith, who was also a policeman and also mentioned adversely at the commission.

While Mr Conwell admitted knowing Beves, he denied he had done anything to help him avoid prosecution. Beves, who was an SP agent for the late crime figure George Freeman, has a string of convictions for SP betting, driving offences and theft.

On phone taps Beves was heard referring to Michael Hurley as "head honcho" and suggested he was planning to move to Switzerland. In evidence he said he and Hurley had been shoplifters together. "Professional shoplifters?" he was asked. "We weren't too professional - we went to jail for it." The pair were jailed in 1976 over a jewellery theft.

Beves was also questioned about his reference to the "head honcho being a mate of Skinny's". When it was suggested to him that "Skinny" was Alan Conwell, Beves denied it and when asked whether he had ever met Keith Conwell together with Hurley, he replied: "I'd say no, sir." When pressed, he said: "Well, I'm not totally sure."

Also mentioned in passing at the commission was Beves's friend, Greg Cusack, who was then a fellow wharf worker but who is now employed as a Qantas baggage handler.

The Herald understands Cusack, who is not among those Qantas has stood down in the course of its investigations, is on leave and is due back at work next week.

Meanwhile, a senior federal police officer was stood down on Friday in relation to allegations of misconduct. It is understood that misconduct relates to the failure to document a previous meeting with Hurley. The officer is not suspected of leaking material to Hurley.

Since December a major figure in the drug cartel has been supplying information to a taskforce of federal and state police and the crime commission.

According to this man, who is now in witness protection, Hurley was involved in smuggling almost 10 kilograms of cocaine on October 8 - and a Qantas baggage handler codenamed Tom was involved in collecting the briefcase from the drug mule.

It has been alleged in court that the smugglers were about to bring in another 20 kilograms when they discovered police were on to them.
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