Spy's claim: A decade of deception

Last updated 05:00 23/02/2013

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A former police spy has lifted the lid on his decade of deception under the codename Muldoon.

The details of Rob Gilchrist's double life infiltrating protest groups and leading trade unions are contained in a draft claim for more than $500,000 from police for lost income, for humiliation, distress, and loss of reputation.

He claims that, to bolster his "cover" for what he says became a $600-a-week job, he became a vegan, an anarchist, an animal rights activist and a tino rangatiratanga supporter.

Police say they cannot discuss the Christchurch man's claim, but do not accept the allegations and will be "vigorously" defending the proceedings.

The draft claim alleges that, on the instructions of police, Mr Gilchrist foiled a plan to "gas" 50,000 battery chickens.

He further claims that he had felt under-appreciated in his undercover role.

When he wanted to stop being an informant, police placated him by introducing him to then-prime minister Helen Clark as someone helping police to gather intelligence on activist groups, he says.

When his relationship with his family suffered because of the lies he was having to tell, his police "handler" met his parents and told them about the work he was doing, describing him as a "police national asset".

He says that he was directed to spy on unions including the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, Service and Food Workers, Maritime Union, and the Council of Trade Unions, along with environment, peace, animal rights and political groups.

Union representatives spoken to by The Dominion Post said they had no suspicions of being spied on and could not imagine why police would wish to do so.

Hans Kriek, executive director of animal welfare group SAFE, said Mr Gilchrist's claims about the chickens were ludicrous and completely false.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said she had never come across Mr Gilchrist. There was no evidence of spying, but if it had occurred it would be an "absolute intrusion".

"I've got no idea if it's true or not, but if it's confirmed we would be very, very concerned."

Labour MP Andrew Little, formerly EPMU national secretary, said there had been no hint of surveillance during his time in charge.

It was hard to imagine why police would be interested in spying on unions, but if it had happened it was horrifying, he said.

Mr Kriek said yesterday: "He probably lives in his own little fantasy world and actually I feel sad for him; he's a bit of a sad figure."

To the best of Mr Kriek's knowledge, police had made no arrests while employing Mr Gilchrist as an informant, which showed that animal welfare groups were generally law-abiding.

Among his claims, Mr Gilchrist says police incited him to commit benefit fraud.

When he first started working for them, he was receiving a sickness benefit. He was reimbursed expenses and then, at police insistence, he says, accepted an offer of $10 an hour. This was later increased to $600 for a 50-to-60-hour week, plus expenses.

It is claimed his handler indicated that police had an arrangement with Inland Revenue that tax was not paid on payments to informants, and that being on a benefit was an "integral part of the cover".

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A Work and Income spokesman said yesterday that there was no arrangement between it and police in relation to informants. Anyone who received a benefit had an obligation to disclose any changes in their circumstances, including receipt of money.

DOUBLE LIFE

Rob Gilchrist says he went to Australia twice in his role as an informant.

The second time was for a vivisection protest, and at police's request he agreed to being an "intelligence asset" for Australian Federal Police.

In 2005 he set up a company, NZ Scanners, and when it started making a profit, his handler indicated that it was acceptable for him to get company income, his welfare benefit and an income from police. He is claiming lost income because his job ended and he was paid less than an undercover police officer. He is also claiming for humiliation, distress and loss of reputation.

He says police did not look after him, take steps to prevent his role becoming known or care for his health and safety, including no counselling, sick days, or holidays.

Since being "outed" in December 2008, he has been threatened and his property damaged. He has suffered depression, can no longer work undercover and is psychologically unfit for alternative work, he says.

- The Dominion Post

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