MP probe dropped
Police cancel $6m union inquiry
THE criminal investigation against Victorian Labor MP Cesar Melhem, prompted by a referral from the trade union royal commission, has officially been dropped.
Victoria Police told the powerful Labor figure he was no longer under investigation earlier this year, after finding no reason to pursue TURC’s claims there could be 11 possible offences related to allegedly corrupt conduct.
Victoria Police set up the $6 million Taskforce Heracles to investigate Mr Melhem and other trade unionists, but the group was disbanded last year.
Shadow attorney-general John Pesutto has written to police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton to clarify why the probe has been closed.
It comes after the case against CFMEU officials was thrown out of court this week and concerns have been raised about the commission’s effectiveness.
CFMEU bosses John Setka and Shaun Reardon were hit with blackmail charges in 2015 after Boral executives made statements to the royal commission into trade unions.
However, the prosecution this week advised that the charges would be withdrawn.
Mr Melhem welcomed the news his investigation had been dropped.
“I am pleased Victoria Police have looked at the material and they have made a decision to not proceed,’’ Mr Melhem said.
“It has been a difficult period and now I can move on.
“There is no question in my mind the royal commission was an absolute witch hunt by the federal government.”
Mr Pesutto said it was concerning how many Labor MPs had been investigated this term.
“It says something about the integrity and character of the Andrews Labor Government that so many senior political figures have faced such serious allegations,’’ he said.
“Victorians deserve a government that will put them first and not treat the responsibility and privilege of leading as an all-you-can-eat buffet for rorters.”
Mr Melhem stepped down as Whip in the Legislative Council amid the furore over his past union dealings, but may now raise his hand for senior positions again.
The Registered Organisations Commission is still considering the Melhem case but that would not lead to any criminal convictions.