Australia charges first person under foreign interference law

Aerial view of Melbourne. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SYDNEY, Nov 5, 2020, Reuters. Australian police said a Melbourne man who appeared in court on Thursday was the first person charged with foreign interference under new legislation introduced in 2018, Japan Today reported.

A federal police statement did not give details about which foreign state the 65-year-old man was accused of acting for.

He appeared in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after the Australian Federal Police executed search warrants in Melbourne on Oct. 16, the statement said.

The charge, of preparing an act of foreign interference, followed an investigation into the man’s relationship with a foreign intelligence agency by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) and federal police, it said.

AFP Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney said in the statement,”Foreign interference is contrary to Australia’s national interest, it goes to the heart of our democracy.”

He added, “It is corrupting and deceptive, and goes beyond routine diplomatic influence practiced by governments.”

When the foreign interference legislation was introduced to parliament, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull referred to media reports about covert interference by the Chinese Communist Party, and said he was galvanised to take action by a classified ASIO report.

Beijing took offense at the Australian political debate over the interference laws.

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