The trial of John McRoberts (right) continues, with the court hearing about discussions at a Christmas party. (ABC News: Alyssa Betts)
Former NT police commissioner John McRoberts was confronted at a Christmas party of departmental chiefs about rumours he had been in a sexual relationship with a fraud investigation target, the Supreme Court has heard.
Mr McRoberts has been accused of trying to deflect a fraud investigation into 27 travel agents that was pursuing Xana Kamitsis as its priority target — he pleaded not guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice between May and November 2014.
Gary Barnes was the Chief Minister’s Department chief executive in 2014 and has given evidence about approaching Mr McRoberts in December that year — after Kamitsis had been arrested — about a rumour “emanating from within the police department”.
“I took it upon myself as a colleague to avail Mr McRoberts of the fact,” Mr Barnes said.
“I’d heard a rumour that he’d been engaged in a sexual relationship with Xana Kamitsis and that a relationship was continuing.
“Mr McRoberts told me that the rumour was untrue and that I knew him to be a professional and that he had the matter in hand. That there was nothing to worry about.”
Mr Barnes said he approached then-chief minister Adam Giles later that evening and told him about the rumour and his conversation with Mr McRoberts.
“I conveyed to the chief minister the response that I’d received from Mr McRoberts,” Mr Barnes told prosecutor Michael McHugh SC.
During cross-examination, Mr McRoberts’ lawyer Anthony Elliot asked whether Mr Barnes and others had been drinking at the party and when the conversation occurred.
“I can’t recall whether or not I’d had a drink at the time,” Mr Barnes said.
“It was early in the evening because I thought it was best to do that straight away.”
Mr Elliot suggested the question Mr Barnes asked was instead words to the effect of: “Mate, I’ve heard a rumour from within police circles that that travel agent got preferential treatment from you?”.
“No,” Mr Barnes replied.
“I was merely conveying to him that there was a rumour circulating and to make him aware of that.
“He was very clear with me that he hadn’t been in a relationship — I had no reason to disbelieve the police commissioner at the time.”
Mr Barnes also refuted a suggestion that he had been sent by Adam Giles to ask the question.
Former NT health minister Robyn Lambley continued giving evidence at the trial. (ABC: Barry Doyle)
‘An extraordinary meeting’
Earlier, Robyn Lambley finished giving evidence about a meeting she had in late June 2014 with Mr McRoberts, Mr Giles and then NT Health Department chief executive Len Notaras.
“It was quite an extraordinary meeting, from my perspective,” Ms Lambley said.
“It was extraordinary for me because I’d never been involved in anything like that before, where you have 27 businesses possibly defrauding the Government.”
Ms Lambley said she clearly remembered Mr Giles stating early in the meeting that they should “go hard” on all the travel agents suspected of fraud.
According to Ms Lambley, a “two-stage” proposal to send letters to the travel agents was then discussed, where the agents would be given a chance to identify so-called overpayments and reimburse the NT Health Department before criminal action was taken.
“Mr McRoberts identified that there was resourcing issues around a full criminal investigation and this was a way of gathering more information,” Ms Lambley said.
“My understanding was that we were sending letters out to all of the travel agents.
“They all got a letter.”