An investigation has found a former Border Force employee engaged in corrupt conduct by giving information to a friend that was used to import drug precursors into the country.
The anti-corruption watchdog overseeing federal law enforcement agencies on Wednesday said former Australian Border Force employee George Filewood had abused his office by assisting a friend in avoiding detection by Australian Border Force patrol vessels.
Integrity commissioner at the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, Jaala Hinchcliffe, found the disclosure gave Mr Filewood's friend access to operational information they would not have otherwise received.
"Mr Filewood's behaviour jeopardised the trust vested in the ABF by the community and risked undermining the legitimacy the ABF requires to carry out its border protection objectives on behalf of the government," she said.
The ACLEI report, published on Wednesday, said Mr Filewood on August 18, 2020, pleaded guilty to one charge of abuse of public office, and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment the following day. The sentence was suspended upon him entering into a good behaviour order for nine months.
Ms Hinchcliffe said the seriousness of Mr Filewood's conduct was compounded because it led to the importation of a commercial quantity of the methyl-amphetamine precursor Phenyl-2-Propanone into Australia.
"Staff members of law enforcement agencies should never access or disclose information for personal reasons or to assist associates," she said in an accompanying statement.
On September 27, 2014, Mr Filewood received a phone call from his friend.
The friend asked Mr Filewood, then a Border Force enforcement officer, how many customs boats were at an island and what they were doing there because "all the patrol" was stopping his "f---ing stuff" from coming through.
Mr Filewoood later called his friend back and said he had a contact on the ABF patrol vessel, and that the person was not answering their phone.
He provided information to his friend about the usual behaviour of his colleague and the expected duration of the patrol activities. Mr Filewood also advised him on how to avoid detection.
Mr Filewood started his employment with Australian Border Force as a 17-year-old in 2002 and spent his entire Border Force career working on the agency's patrol vessels. His duties included maintaining and operating the vessels during ABF investigations into drug trafficking, people smuggling, illegal fishing and breaches of environmental protection legislation. He was also required to recommend what action should be taken against people who were investigated.
Mr Filewood and the drug precursor importer had been friends for many years, and Mr Filewood considered him to be his family.
The Australian Federal Police referred the matter to the Integrity Commissioner on November 21, 2014, during the course of an AFP-led investigation into a criminal drug syndicate.
Then-acting Integrity Commissioner Robert Cornall decided to investigate the referral jointly with the Department of Home Affairs on November 28, 2014, and the investigation was named Operation Dreadnought.
The investigation focused on Mr Filewood after telephone intercept material revealed the conversation between him and his friend on September 27, 2014.
In an interview with investigators on October 29, 2015, he said his friend had called him to ask him why the ABF patrol boats were stopping his "s--t from getting through", and asked him what the patrol boats were doing in the islands.
He told investigators that in a later phone conversation that day he told his friend where the ABF vessels were located, and about the activities of the ABF vessels.
Mr Filewood also spoke with another ABF colleague and obtained information about the location of the ABF vessels, however he did not pass this information on to his friend.
He said he was not aware of his friend's specific activities, but believed they could have been "smuggling" heroin into Australia. Mr Filewood also said he knew what he was doing was "wrong" and constituted a breach of the law and ABF operational security.
The Home Affairs Department conducted a code of conduct investigation into the behaviour of Mr Filewood. He resigned from Border Force in January 2015 before the investigation was concluded.