A Senate inquiry will examine a veteran federal police officer's explosive claim that he was offered a promotion in return for shutting down the AFP investigation into the Australian Wheat Board oil-for-food scandal.
In a move that will again put the spotlight on one of Australia's murkiest international corruption cases, the Greens and Labor have joined forces to trigger an inquiry by the Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee into allegations made by Ross Fusca in 2012.
Mr Fusca, a 30-year veteran of the federal police, led the AFP taskforce into the wheat board's $300 million payments to the regime of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in breach of United Nations sanctions.
In addition to alleging that a senior federal police officer had told him that if he could "make the oil-for-food taskforce go away, he would be appointed as next co-ordinator", Mr Fusca said in a 2012 federal court statement that his taskforce was not given enough resources and had shut down prematurely.
He also made the sensational claim that the police taskforce, which ran between late 2006 and August 2009, had cultivated a high-level informant who indicated that "senior government officials'' had been aware of the wheat board's payment of kickbacks.
In 2006, prime minister John Howard, foreign minister Alexander Downer and trade minister Mark Vaile appeared before the Cole royal commission into wheat board payments to the Iraqi regime.
The motion to establish the Senate inquiry instructs the committee to report on the work of the federal police on the oil-for-food scandal, the resources provided to Mr Fusca's taskforce and any other related matters by September 4.
Greens leader Christine Milne today said her party initiated the move for a senate inquiry because of the many lingering questions over the wheat board scandal.
"The Greens-initiated inquiry is necessary because there are many leads in the oil-for-food kickbacks scandal left unexplored, and so many questions left unanswered about the AFP's handling of the case," Ms Milne said, adding that without a federal anti-corruption body the Senate was the only institution "capable of delving into such murky waters".
The federal police shut down its wheat board taskforce in August 2009, handing responsibility for the investigation to corporate regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
In a media statement at the time, the federal police said its decision was partly based on legal advice of senior barrister Peter Hastings, QC, who warned that criminal prosecution of former wheat board managers was unlikely to succeed and not in the public interest.
Mr Fusca said in 2012 that when Mr Hastings gave his advice, his taskforce still had months of work ahead of it.
The federal police refused to release Mr Hastings' advice. Earlier advice by Mr Hastings to the federal police obtained by Fairfax Media suggested federal investigators had a sound legal basis for building a criminal case if they could prove wheat board employees had hidden kickbacks in wheat contracts to Iraq.
Mr Fusca today said he was "extremely happy that this has occurred" and that he would "willingly participate in any inquiry if subpoenaed''.
Mr Fusca has previously spoken of how his career began to slide in late 2008 after he wrote an email to his federal police superiors complaining about the taskforce's "severe staffing problem".
He was given lesser duties after the email was sent and alleged he was eventually given only menial tasks.
Mr Fusca, who resigned in 2010 and took action against the federal police under the Fair Work Act, said his legal case against his former employer had been resolved.
The federal police denied Mr Fusca's claim that the wheat board taskforce was under-resourced and shut down prematurely, stating that it had more than 20 state and federal officers and a multi-million-dollar budget.