AFP officers expelled from Vanuatu
Charged ... Clarence Marae.
Twelve Australian Federal Police officers have been expelled from Vanuatu amid an escalating diplomatic feud.
On Tuesday the Vanuatu government threatened to arrest all AFP officers in the capital Port Vila following the arrest in Sydney of a senior aide to the nation’s prime minister.
Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister, Alfred Carlot, issued a statement yesterday that gave the AFP 24 hours to close its liaison office otherwise officers would face arrest for failing to "take into account the decision of the Vanuatu government".
The AFP charged senior public servant Clarence Marae, 51, in Sydney on April 27 while he was travelling with the Prime Minister, Sato Kilman, en route to Israel for a state visit.
He was charged with conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth, was moved to Brisbane and is set to reappear at Magistrates Court on May 16.
Sources in Port Vila told the Herald the AFP team flew out from Port Villa this morning amid a strong local police presence at the airport.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed all AFP personnel left Vanuatu this morning.
"We are disappointed and concerned that Vanuatu decided to expel all AFP personnel in Vanuatu in retaliation for the arrest," he said.
"We regret that it was necessary to make the arrest during Prime Minister Kilman’s transit. All possible measures were taken to ensure it was carried out in a way that was respectful of Prime Minister Kilman’s position and the need to protect his dignity.
"The AFP has been playing a key role in supporting the Vanuatu Police Force. As a result of this decision, the people of Vanuatu do not have the benefit of this valuable aid," he said.
Last night Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr told the ABC he was hoping to salvage the situation.
"I’m disappointed in it and I would like the Government of Vanuatu to think again.
"We’re spending, by the way, $97 million training police officers across the Pacific. It’s very, very valuable aid and if Vanuatu has a grievance with what happened, a law enforcement incident at Sydney Airport, then I’d be happy to facilitate ways of them expressing that grievance to save them from any self-inflicted damage that expelling our AFP personnel might render them," he said.