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Police created files on Fitzgibbon benefactor

Date

Richard Baker, Nick Mckenzie, Philip Dorling

THE Australian Federal Police created intelligence files on the former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon's benefactor, businesswoman Helen Liu.

Documents obtained by The Age under freedom of information laws reveal the AFP's interest in Ms Liu came after a federal agent working in its human source intelligence collection area received information about Ms Liu from a confidential source in December 2008, four months before her association with the Labor MP was made public.

The AFP has refused to release documents regarding its interest in Ms Liu, claiming disclosure could damage national security and threaten lives.

However, a schedule of relevant documents prepared by the AFP indicate its agents created several information reports and intelligence briefs between 2008 and 2010 in response to the information provided about Ms Liu.

Ms Liu, a Chinese-Australian property developer, has not been charged with any offences and the Herald does not suggest any criminality or wrong-doing on her part.

The AFP has declined to release the vast bulk of 25 separate documents - some classified ''highly protected'' - related to the information concerning Ms Liu, the federal agent's handling of it and a subsequent internal inquiry.

The documents include material held by the AFP Intelligence portfolio including its Transnational Intelligence Operations unit.

Ms Liu rose to prominence in late March 2009 after The Age and the Herald revealed a small group of Defence Department officials had carried out a covert and unauthorised examination of her personal and financial relationship to Mr Fitzgibbon, who was then defence minister.

Mr Fitzgibbon was forced to declare that he had received two first-class trips to the People's Republic of China in 2002 and 2005 courtesy of Ms Liu after initially denying he had received any substantial gifts from her.

Ms Liu and Mr Fitzgibbon have taken legal action against Fairfax Media, publisher of the Herald, over 2010 reports that alleged her private business records documented payments to him.

Mr Fitzgibbon denies the receipt of money other than that declared to the Australian Electoral Commission. Ms Liu claims the document recording payment of money to Mr Fitzgibbon and other Chinese officials has been fabricated.

Ms Liu this year succeeded in winning an order from NSW Supreme Court Justice Lucy McCallum for The Age to disclose information pertaining to the identity of the sources that provided 135 pages of documents regarding Ms Liu's business affairs. The Age has appealed the order.

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