Police raid Channel Seven over Corby paid interview

MICHAEL BACHELARD, AMILIA ROSA
Last updated 16:30 18/02/2014
Channel 7
TAMARA DEAN/Fairfax Media

UNDER SUSPICION: The offices of Channel Seven were raided by Australian Federal Police today.

Schapelle Corby
PAROLED: Convicted Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby.
Mike Willesee
INTERVIEWER: Seven's Mike Willesee fronts media in Bali.

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The Australian Federal Police raid on Channel Seven's Sydney office "will find no payment for Schapelle Corby because no payment has been made," network personality Mike Willesee has declared in Bali.

He also said he had spoken to Corby for the first time, and that, though she had suffered mental illness, had been fine when they spoke.

As police were still searching in Channel Seven's headquarters, Willesee emerged to say "there is no deal" with the Corby family.

Seven, he said, had bought nothing yet: "But we have, through a lot of hard work, positioned ourselves so that if there is an interview, we'll be first in line."

He did not deny that a payment was planned to Corby or a member of her family after the planned interview, but said no payment had been made yet.

He also said the $2 million figure that has been widely quoted for the exclusive TV expose was "a lie and a fantasy and should finally be buried".

Seven's "hard work" so far includes exclusive access to the paroled drug smuggler, renting villas alongside the Corby family and providing three or more security guards to protect Schapelle from other media in the area.

Eight days after he swept into the villa compound in Seminyak with the Corby entourage, Willesee said he had now spoken to Schapelle.

"I've been talking with Schapelle and she's in good shape. We've had some very good talks. But we haven't talked about the interview ...

"She's suffered in jail, and she's come out with some mental issues which she appears to be dealing with very well. But you can't say if she's good today that she'll be good tomorrow.

"All I see is good, and I'm hopeful for her sake, even more than ours, that that continues. But she's in pretty good shape now; so I'd be optimistic for her," Willesee said.

He said he had not talked to the Corbys "about the interview or business," saying: "I've just been chatting ... It was a private conversation, it wasn't anything. But it was interesting."

The attitude of the Indonesian authorities to any interview is crucial, after the deputy justice minister Denny Indrayana strongly advised the family not to go ahead, paid or unpaid, because it may cause "restlessness" or "upset" within Indonesia.

But Willesee and Seven appear intent on pushing ahead, hoping that what Corby ultimately says in the interview will be accepted by the Indonesian authorities.

"We'd be very careful in an interview to see that we didn't breach any understanding that we had with the Indonesian authorities; we'd be very respectful of that," he said.

Asked, though, if he or Seven had or was trying to any kind of "understanding," Willesee said they were not.

Twelve Australian Federal Police officers arrived at Channel Seven's Pyrmont offices about 8.55am on Tuesday. Officers remained inside the building at 10.30am.

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Channel Seven reporters tweeted pictures of police inside and outside the network's headquarters.

#BREAKING: AFP officers are currently raiding Seven West offices in an investigation into #Schapelle Corby proceeds. pic.twitter.com/mSUiliNff2

- 7News Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) February 17, 2014

 

An AFP spokeswoman confirmed that more than two warrants were being executed but she would not say where because the operation was ongoing.

The network's Martin Place office was not raided, she said.

The Proceeds of Crime Act (2002) provides a scheme to ''trace, restrain and confiscate the proceeds of crime against Commonwealth law''.

However, in some circumstances, it can also be used to confiscate the proceeds of crime against foreign law or the proceeds of crime against State law if those proceeds have been used in a way that contravenes Commonwealth law.

Corby was released from Kerobokan prison a week ago after spending nine years in jail.

Since her release, she has been living inside the five-star Villa Sentosa Seminyak, which is protected by guards hired by the Seven Network.

Last Thursday, the Indonesian Deputy Justice Minister objected to Corby conducting any interview, paid or otherwise, throwing all the Seven Network's arrangements with the family into disarray.

The minister, Denny Indrayana, threatened to return Corby to prison if she caused an "upset" in the community by doing the interview.

Indonesian sensitivities have been insulted by Corby's residence in a luxury villa, but last week Corby's brother-in-law Wayan Widyartha said the group would not yet leave it to go back to the address listed in her parole documents - his family compound in Kuta.

He reportedly said Corby wanted to go home as quickly as possible, but that the encampment of Australian journalists, waiting in a hotel cafe outside the compound, were ''causing all the problems''.

Corby is due to serve out more than three years on parole until her final release on July 25, 2017.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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