Victoria Police seize files on AWU by Hedley Thomas From The Australian June 17, 2013 12:00AM
POLICE from the Victorian Fraud Squad have seized boxes of legal documents from Julia Gillard's former employer, Slater & Gordon lawyers, as part of an ongoing probe into the AWU slush fund scandal.
The documents were removed from the firm's Melbourne offices after the execution of a search warrant and co-operation between the firm and detectives, sources told The Australian yesterday.
Fraud Squad detectives want to examine all legal files related to controversial legal work done by Ms Gillard and the firm for her then boyfriend, Bruce Wilson, the allegedly corrupt Australian Workers Union senior official, and his union sidekick, Ralph Blewitt, in the 1990s.
The legal files are subject to confidentiality provisions.
Mr Blewitt has previously waived confidentiality and has admitted to police his role in what he has described as a major fraud with Mr Wilson.
Mr Wilson and Ms Gillard, whose relationship ended over the AWU scandal in 1995, have repeatedly and strenuously denied any wrongdoing, and accused Mr Blewitt of being unreliable and a liar.
It is understood that while Mr Blewitt wants police to examine all AWU-related legal documents held by Slater & Gordon, Mr Wilson will seek to prevent police from examining the files that are relevant to him.
Slater & Gordon, which has pledged to co-operate with Victoria Police and any other investigating authorities, including a possible royal commission into unions foreshadowed by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, has not represented the men for almost 17 years.
A spokesman for Slater & Gordon said yesterday: "We are not commenting on police matters."
Victoria Police, which has had a taskforce of detectives working on the AWU investigation since late 2012, have repeatedly declined to comment on their most sensitive probe. Police last month sought documents from the archives of the AWU's West Australian and Victorian branches, in which Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt worked in the 1990s during the alleged fraud.
The legal work done at Slater & Gordon for the two men includes the Prime Minister's role in helping Mr Wilson establish the AWU Workplace Reform Association.
Ms Gillard says she provided legal advice to help set up the AWU Workplace Reform Association, which Mr Wilson later used to carry out the alleged fraud. She later described the association as a "slush fund" for the re-election of union officials, but said she had no knowledge of its operations.
The slush fund was used by Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt to bill building company, Thiess, for hundreds of thousands of dollars for work that was not performed.
The union was not aware of the existence of the slush fund. Slater & Gordon was the law firm for the AWU at the time.
Money was withdrawn from the slush fund to purchase a $230,000 Fitzroy terrace house in Mr Blewitt's name at a 1993 auction Ms Gillard attended with Mr Wilson, who subsequently lived in the property. Slater & Gordon handled the conveyancing and helped provide finance.
Ms Gillard's work in helping establish the slush fund, leading to her abrupt departure as a salaried partner amid a breakdown in trust at the law firm, was revealed in The Australian last year with leaked letters and a transcript of the firm's tape-recorded September, 1995 interview with her.