Under investigation ... Peter Slipper in the Speaker's chair. Photo: Andrew Meares
Peter Slipper is being formally investigated by police for misusing his travel entitlements, despite the embattled Speaker's continued insistence that he is innocent.
The Australian Federal Police have confirmed that they have launched a formal investigation into Mr Slipper, who stood aside from the Speaker's chair last month in the wake of allegations of misusing his Cabcharge entitlements and separate civil claims that he sexually harassed his adviser.
The AFP said that after receiving a referral to investigate allegations of fraud made against Mr Slipper on April 21, police had spoken to a number of potential witnesses, gathered information on the matter and evaluated the "the likelihood of a criminal offence", before deciding to launch an investigation on April 30.
"The AFP has now assessed that the matter requires further investigation," a spokesperson said.
When the initial allegations were made by the Speaker's staff member James Ashby, Mr Slipper temporarily stood aside from the Speaker's chair, until the criminal travel claims were cleared up.
Last week, Mr Slipper released photocopies of the 13 Cabcharge dockets in a bid to refute the allegations that he rorted his travel entitlements by handing over signed blank Cabcharge vouchers to drivers.
Despite questions over inconsistencies in the dockets, Mr Slipper insisted that the photocopies proved his innocence.
“The criminal allegation has been shown to be a fabrication and there is no longer any reason to step aside," he said.
Leader of the House Anthony Albanese last week agreed that the documents cleared Mr Slipper of the claims he had misused his Cabcharges. "That allegation is not correct," he said.
Mr Slipper planned to return to his job in time for the budget sitting in Parliament next Tuesday, even though civil sexual harassment claims were still unresolved.
But over the weekend, Prime Minister Julia Gillard insisted that Mr Slipper stay away from the Speaker's chair until all claims against him were resolved, following threats from the independents and the Coalition that they would move a motion of no confidence against the Speaker if he returned to the chamber.
The formal investigation into Mr Slipper comes as the government has challenged Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne to produce records to back up his insistence that he did not telephone Mr Ashby, who has also accused Mr Slipper of sexual harassment.
The National Times website revealed yesterday that Mr Pyne spent almost two hours drinking and chatting with Mr Ashby weeks before the staffer lodged court documents with his accusations.
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