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Contraband smuggling prison officer corrupt, says ICAC

Friday 25 January 2013

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) activities officer Karaha Pene Te-Hira engaged in corrupt conduct by trafficking contraband into the Metropolitan Special Programs Centre (MSPC) at the Long Bay Correctional Complex over six months in 2012 for two inmates in return for benefits. The contraband included shoes, food, mobile telephones, chargers, mail, SIM cards, steroids and a steroid injection plunger.
In its report on the Investigation into the smuggling of contraband into the Metropolitan Special Programs Centre at the Long Bay Correctional Complex, released today, the Commission finds that inmate Omar Zahed engaged in corrupt conduct by arranging for his sister, Asmahen Zahed, to provide Mr Te-Hira with shoes for delivery to himself in the MSPC and to reward Mr Te-Hira with shoes and cash in return. Ms Zahed engaged in corrupt conduct by providing a pair of shoes and cash on 13 June 2012, and a pair of shoes on 27 June 2012, to Mr Te-Hira in return for his delivering the shoes to Mr Zahed in the MSPC.

Cash in the amount of $9,500 was located in Mr Te-Hira's vehicle during the execution of search warrants on 16 August 2012. Mr Te-Hira later admitted that up to $6,000 of this money represented payments he had received from inmates in return for providing them with contraband goods.

The Commission found that Mr Te-Hira accepted a benefit of at least $500 towards the cost of a car stereo and DVD system that was installed in his vehicle during June 2012. He knew this benefit came from either an inmate named Alfred Fonua or another inmate, and accepted the benefit on the understanding that he would exercise his official functions in favour of Mr Fonua or Mr Zahed, or another inmate associated with them.

Earlier, in April 2012, Mr Te-Hira engaged in corrupt conduct by trafficking a pair of shoes, tweezers and a shaving razor into the MSPC, which he delivered to an inmate identified during the public inquiry as Prisoner X, in return for a cash payment exceeding $50. Other contraband items Mr Te-Hira delivered to Prisoner X included two mobile telephones.

Mr Te-Hira admitted to the Commission that he knew the items were contraband, and that it was a criminal offence for an inmate to have possession of a mobile telephone or for a person to bring unauthorised items into a prison. He was also aware of the existence of numerous CSNSW policies that regulated the conduct of correctional officers, including policies on contact with offenders and conflict of interest. The Commission is of the opinion that CSNSW should give consideration to taking disciplinary action against Mr Te-Hira with a view to his dismissal.

The Commission has made five corruption prevention recommendations to CSNSW, including that the agency's draft Public Correctional Centre Operating Standards – Security, be further developed and include relevant recommendations made in the Commission's 2010 report, Investigation into the smuggling of contraband into the John Morony Correctional Centre. CSNSW should also implement a post rotation system for roles where familiarity can impact on officer behaviour, and should implement a performance management system.

The Commission is of the opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions should be obtained with respect to the prosecution of Mr Te-Hira for offences of corruptly receiving a reward. The ICAC held a public inquiry as part of the investigation over 8 and 9 October 2012. Assistant Commissioner Theresa Hamilton presided, and 10 witnesses gave evidence.


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Media contact: ICAC Manager Communications & Media, Nicole Thomas, 02 8281 5799 / 0417 467 801