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id AA06629; Thu, 24 Sep 92 19:49:05 -0400
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 92 19:49:05 -0400
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Subject: Information Brokers
SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
August 13 1992
HUGE TRADE IN PERSONAL FILES
By MALCOLM BROWN
Westpac, National Australia Bank, NRMA Insurance Ltd, Custom Credit
Citicorp are some of the big names in a damning report by the ICAC
Assistant Commissioner, Mr Adrian Roden, QC, on the unauthorised
confidential government information.
Mr Roden found that there was a multi-million-dollar trade in such
information which involved public servants, including police, and
""Information, from a variety of State and Commonwealth government
and the private sector has been freely and regularly sold and
many years," he said. "NSW public officials have been heavily
Mr Roden heard 446 witnesses in public and private hearings over 168
before compiling his 1,300-page report.
Even so, he said, it was necessary to be selective; thousands of
and commercial inquiry agents had not examined.
Mr Roden found that more than 250 people had participated in the
trade or had contributed to it.
OOf these, 155 had engaged in corrupt conduct. A further 101 had
conduct which allowed, encouraged or caused the occurrence of corrupt
Many are NSW and Commonwealth public servants who sold information
collected by the agencies where they work, including the Roads and
Authority (RTA), police force, Telecom and Sydney County Council.
The Attorney-General, Mr Hannaford, announced that the Director of
Prosecutions had set up a task force to consider laying charges
more than 100 people named in the report.
HHe said many of the public servants named could expect to lose their
and that the heads of all the government departments involved had been
to examine the report and take action against those involved.
The Assistant Police Commissioner, Mr Col Cole, confirmed yesterday
five police officers had been suspended and announced that three task
forces had been set up and computer security upgraded.
Mr Hannaford foreshadowed the introduction of privacy legislation to
the unauthorised use of confidential information a criminal offence.
The major banks said that they could not condone what their staff had
but said the staff had believed that they were acting in the best
of their employers and the community.
None of the banks was planning to sack staff found to be corrupt
several said the staff had been counselled or "educated".
MMr Roden said the trade involved banks, insurance companies and other
financial institutions which had provided "a ready market".
The link was provided by private and commercial inquiry agents. With
banks, codes had been used to conceal the nature of the transactions.
"As they have gone about their corrupt trade, commercial interest has
prevailed over commercial ethics, greed ha~ prevailed over public
laws and regulations designed to protect confidentiality have been
ignored," Mr Roden said.
"Frequently the client, generally an insurance company, bank or other
financial institution, ordered the information from the agent with a
appreciation of how it was to be obtained.
""The evidence disclosed that in the collection and recovery
a number of those institutions, it has long been standard practice to
confidential government information . . . as a means of locating
Some finance and insurance companies had directed agents to keep all
references to the trade off invoices and reports.
"Some even directed that the agents falsely state the source of the
information in their reports," Mr Roden said.
"Some solicitors in private practice have sought and purchased
government information in circumstances in which they must have known
it could not have been properly obtained."
Mr Kevin Rindfleish, an unlicensed private inquiry agent, had sold
Department of Motor Transport/Roads and Traffic Authority and social
security information "on a large scale". His principal client had been
AA private investigator, Mr Terence John Hancock, and his company, All
Cities Investigations Pty Ltd, had sold confidential government
to the National Australia Bank and Westpac on a regular basis.
Two employees of the NAB had used prior contacts to provide the bank
access to RTA, social security, Australia Post and immigration
Between them, the employees also provided silent numbers and
The Advance Bank had "over a period of years" obtained information
improperly released from the RTA, the Department of Social Security
Department of Immigration. The practice was "known and approved at
senior management level".
New Zealand Insurance and Manufacturers Mutual had bought confidential
government information from private investigators.
NRMA Insurance Ltd and the Government Insurance Office were "found to
participated as freely in the illicit trade in confidential government
information as their more commercially orientated competitors".
"Evidence relating to NRMA Insurance Ltd established not only that it
purchased confidential government information through private
investigators, but also that investigators were required to obtain
government information by unauthorised means if they were to retain
EEsanda Finance Corporation Ltd had bought confidential information
least 23 years. Custom Credit Corporation Ltd which had engaged in the
illicit trade over "many years", had maintained false records to
how it obtained information.
Alston de Zilwa, former underwriter and operations manager of Citicorp
and later, Toyota Finance Australia Limited's credit operations
had established for each of the two companies a system for obtaining
The companies would seek information directly from employees of the
RTA and pay a private inquiry agent, Mr Kevin Robinson, who would
it, then invoice the companies for the corresponding sum.
Mr Roden said that hundreds of thousands of dollars had changed hands
the trade uncovered. One agent had estimated that he had paid $40,000
$50,000 a year for Social Security information alone.
Another had said he received $100,000 over two years for government
YYet another had, according to records, charged a bank $186,000 for
services" over a period of 18 months.