NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas has hunted murderers, worked in warzones and faced death threats from terrorists.
One of the state’s most experienced investigators says he fears no one – but he does fear the NSW Ombudsman.
In an extraordinary testimony before a parliamentary inquiry on Friday, Mr Kaldas launched a scathing attack on Ombudsman Bruce Barbour’s handling of an investigation into a phone bugging scandal that reaches to the highest levels of the NSW Police Force.
“I received many threats from Hezbollah and other proxy groups,” Mr Kaldas told the Upper House inquiry, referring to his work advising coalition police forces in Iraq and leading a United Nations investigation into the 2005 assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri.
“I fear no man and I have operated in trusted circles with the top secret level of clearance from our national government and our allies.
“Yet I have never been denigrated, humiliated and had my every action and thought so unreasonably maligned as I experienced during Operation Prospect.”
Operation Prospect is the investigation begun two years ago by the NSW Ombudsman, using royal commission-style powers to investigate two controversial operations, Mascot and Florida, mounted by the police Special Crime and Internal Affairs unit in 2000.
Mr Kaldas was among more than 100 officers named on phone tap warrants allegedly obtained by officers using false or misleading evidence to judges.
He told the inquiry he was targeted by officers in SCIA with whom he was in conflict, stemming, among other things, from complaints he made about them plagiarising a report he wrote on covert policing.
The Mascot investigation found nothing but harmed his life, his family and his career, he said.
His mobile phone and his office as head of the homicide squad were bugged, as was the home of his ex-wife and children, and he was passed over for promotions.
Current NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione was head of SCIA at the time Operation Mascot and Operation Florida were conducted, and current Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn was the SCIA officer in charge of the operations.
Ms Burn, who has denied any wrongdoing in a statement, will appear before the state parliamentary inquiry on Friday afternoon.
Mr Kaldas said Operation Prospect had sided with the officers being complained about and targeted him and other victims.
After making complaints about the bugging, he was called down for a “friendly” hearing with the Ombudsman last September but instead faced a day-long attack on his credibility.
“It felt to me this was a well planned attack to silence me as one of the main complainants,” he said.
“The Ombudsman has now summoned me again to appear before him and I hold fears of his intentions towards me.”
Veteran journalist Neil Mercer, who has written extensively about operations Mascot and Florida, appeared before the inquiry and testified that SCIA officers had condoned a criminal informant giving perjured evidence in court.
Mr Mercer also revealed that he had been called before the Ombudsman in 2014 and was asked – with the agreement of his source – to reveal where he obtained documents relating to Operation Mascot.
The hearing continues.