Police probe threatens Australian government
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Last Updated: Tuesday, August 23, 2011, 23:02
Sydney: Australian police on Tuesday said they were reviewing allegations that a government MP used a former employer's credit card to pay for prostitutes, in a move that could derail Labour’s fragile rule.

Craig Thomson allegedly paid for sex workers and escorts with a card issued by the Health Services Union in 2003 and 2005, when he was the national secretary.

The Labor politician denies the allegations, first made public two years ago by local newspapers, saying that someone else had his credit card and mobile phone when the events took place.

He has received the backing of the ruling party, including staunch support from Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Labor helped pay for Thomson's defamation case against the local newspapers involved, lending him more than USD 95,000 after the legal action threatened to bankrupt him, which would have forced him out of parliament.

Parliamentary rules stipulate that bankrupts or anyone convicted of a crime that carries a possible penalty of a year or more in prison are forbidden from holding office.

Thomson has since abandoned the defamation action.

Labor holds power with a wafer-thin majority of just one seat after deadlocked elections last year, and the loss of Thomson's seat -- which would likely swing to the conservatives in a by-election -- could end their rule.

Police said they were examining information "in relation to a number of matters concerning a federal Labor MP" which had been referred by opposition legal spokesman George Brandis.

They initially said it was to "determine whether a criminal offence has occurred", but later issued a statement clarifying that they were working "to determine whether there are grounds that warrant an investigation".

The police have not specified which crime or crimes may be involved, but paying for sex is not illegal in New South Wales state.

Brandis said he was "very confident" the credit card statements and affidavits he had presented to the state's police chief would establish that a criminal act -- forgery at the very least -- had taken place.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2011, 23:02

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