Thursday, October 04, 2012

Michael Williamson charged and arrested

One cannot overstate the implications for the Gillard federal government of this arrest. Williamson is a former ALP President and President of the HSU (Health Services Union).

Michael Williamson arrested over hindering HSU probe

FORMER Health Services Union (HSU) national president Michael Williamson has been arrested for allegedly attempting to hinder investigations into fraud against and corruption within the union.
Williamson, 59, arrived at Sydney's Maroubra Police Station at 7.45am this morning and is expected to be charged later in the day over his involvement in the HSU scandal.
Mr Williamson walked in with one other person, presumed to be his lawyer, and plain clothed police stood by outside. It's the first he has been seen since July, when he quit as national present of the union by text message.
NSW police have been investigating claims of systemic corruption at the HSU East branch, of which Mr Williamson was secretary for 15 years.

It is alleged by police he hindered investigations into fraud against and corruption within the HSU.

Williamson was inside the police station for about an hour this morning before being driven out the back exit by detectives.

When the car was surrounded by the media, Williamson, who was wearing a suit and tie and sitting in the rear of the vehicle, covered his face with his hands.

Detectives anticipate charging him with a number of offences relating to hindering investigations, including recruiting a person to engage in criminal activity and officer of an organisation publishing false statements.

Former Labor MP Craig Thomson, who suspended his membership of the ALP earlier this year and now sits as an independent, was assistant secretary of the NSW branch of the HSU from 1999 to 2002.

Mr Thomson, who became HSU national secretary before entering parliament in 2007, was accused of misusing more than $500,000 of union member funds, including on prostitutes. He denies all wrongdoing.
A spokeswoman for State Crime Command said Williamson would be charged with multiple offences and that police were unsure how long the process would take.

She would not confirm whether the charges related to an incident in which Mr Williamson was stopped by police in a car park adjacent to the HSU's Sydney offices.

The central headquarters of the union's East Branch was raided by fraud squad officers from the NSW police strike force Carnarvon in May.

They police seized documents and computers in search of evidence related to an investigation into allegations Mr Williamson and a former official, now federal MP Craig Thomson, received secret commissions from a union supplier.

Mr Williamson - who was suspended from work at the time - allegedly had a bag of documents with him when he was intercepted by police in a car park.

He resignation as national president via text message to a senior union official in July came in response to the leaking of a report by barrister Ian Temby QC.

Mr Temby found more than $20 million of questionable payments were made to suppliers without any form of tendering or contract.

His report into the HSU East branch revealed extravagant salaries, excessive credit cards claims, misuse of union funds, nepotism and poor governance.

Mr Williamson was the president of the Australian Labor Party at the time of the alleged activities.

The HSU scandal has embroiled suspended Labor MP Craig Thomson, a former national secretary of the HSU and made matters difficult for the federal government.

HSU member Gerard Haye, who is running for the union's general secretary position in upcoming elections, said it was "a dark day for the union".

"We need to be rebuilding the union and commit to the membership to move forward and get the union back in the hands of the membership," he told AAP.

A media briefing will be held at Maroubra Police Station later in the day.
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