Mehmet Ersoy/Osman : Former officer hired to spy

Ha! Seven years later… an article in the paper. See also : Revealed: spying on Anarchists (October 3, 2006).

Former officer hired to spy
Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie
The Age
October 17, 2008

THE owners of Australia’s biggest uranium mines paid a former undercover Victoria Police officer to infiltrate environment and Aboriginal groups in Melbourne.

The former police intelligence unit officer, known as Mehmet, was hired by North Ltd — before its takeover by Rio Tinto in late 2000 — and US nuclear and defence giant General Atomics to spy on Friends of the Earth, Jabiluka Action Group, Nuclear Free Australia, radio station 3CR and radical Melbourne bookstore Barricade Books.

Mehmet first infiltrated the Jabiluka Action Group and Friends of the Earth in 1998 as part of an undercover police operation. It is not known why police chose to infiltrate and monitor the groups, though both were involved in anti-uranium protests.

After leaving the police in late 1999 to set up his own security company, Universal Axiom, Mehmet retained his covert police persona as a Kurdish migrant concerned about indigenous and mining issues.

He was able to stay inside the groups and provide information to the mining companies about campaigns being planned against their respective uranium mining operations until his cover was blown in mid-2001, when Friends of the Earth received an anonymous phone call warning about Mehmet’s true identity.

Deputy Police Commissioner Simon Overland told The Age it was a breach of the Police Regulations Act for an officer to use a covert identity after leaving the force or to use information gathered in the course of official duties for private gain.

“It’s a criminal offence and we would take that very seriously. We have prosecuted people in the past and we will continue to do so when they do that,” he said.

Mr Overland also acknowledged some covert operations by Victoria Police in the late 1990s were not as accountable as they should have been.

“It is pretty much a matter of public record that there were issues with the way activities in this area operated in the past,” Mr Overland said. “But I do make the point that it is eight years ago … I want to make it very clear that that is not the way we do business now.”

Friends of the Earth spokesman Cam Walker said there was no justification for police infiltration of the group in the late 1990s, especially as it was already holding regular meetings with the police intelligence unit at the time to discuss its campaigns.

Mr Walker said it was unethical for mining companies to pay the former undercover officer to continue to spy on groups opposed to uranium mining.

“It is inappropriate on so many levels. We are a membership-based community group,” Mr Walker said. “We are no risk of violence against the police or the companies. We see this as a criminal act, particularly as the guy came to be here in the first place as a police officer.”

Former North Ltd executives have confirmed the engagement of Mehmet’s company, Universal Axiom, as well as two other corporate intelligence firms, British-owned Control Risks Group [MELBOURNE, Control Risks Group Pty Ltd, 1A Yarra Street, South Yarra, Victoria 3141, Australia, Tel: + 61 3 9826 5540, Fax: +61 3 9826 9560, crmelbourne AT] and a Melbourne firm headed by another former undercover Victoria Police officer.

“We were facing a very strong, active protest outside our Melbourne headquarters because of Jabiluka and we needed security advice to protect our staff,” a former company executive said.

“We were also facing a takeover and we had to take steps to ensure the security of our internal information and boardroom discussions.”

It is believed only a handful of North Ltd executives were aware of the engagement of Mehmet, who was first hired to assess the quality of information supplied by other private intelligence firms.

A spokesman for Rio Tinto, which acquired North Ltd in late 2000, said the company was not aware of North Ltd’s engagement of security consultants.

“We hire security companies and consultants to support our operations worldwide,” the Rio Tinto spokesman said. “However, the purpose of these contracts is solely for the protection of the group’s assets and personnel, it is completely defensive. These services are not used for infiltration of competitors or anyone else.”

US company General Atomics and its Australian subsidiary, Heathgate Resources, declined to answer questions about Mehmet, who also provided personal protection to visiting General Atomics executives.

A Heathgate spokeswoman said the company was privately owned and had a policy of not responding to media questions.

The outing of a rat in the ranks
Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie
The Age
October 17, 2008

THE man on the other end of the line had some valuable information.

He did not give his name but he gave a phone number through which the Melbourne branch of Friends of The Earth could reach him. He wanted to alert the group to the presence of a spy who had been in their ranks for more than two years. But he also wanted revenge, claiming the spy had deceived him in a business deal.

The Friends of the Earth nuclear campaigner who picked up the phone on Wednesday, May 30, 2001, was told that one of their most eager activists was working undercover for the mining companies they were campaigning against.

Worse, the man said, the activist known as Mehmet had been a Victorian Police covert officer when he made his first entry into Melbourne’s anti-uranium crowd in 1998. The caller also claimed Mehmet had worked for Federal Government intelligence organisations.

The informant told of how he would drive Mehmet to Brunswick’s radical bookstore Barricade Books — a hangout for Melbourne’s activist community — where he would change into his “street gear” before beginning his shift behind the counter.

The information provided by the caller tallied with the private concerns held by several anti-nuclear campaigners who first came across Mehmet at Jabiluka Action Group events in 1998. Though he was helpful and eager to volunteer to hand out leaflets, some thought Mehmet overly pushy. He was always asking questions, taking notes and lobbying to be the liaison between the green and Aboriginal groups.

Now armed with the information provided by the mysterious anonymous caller, The Friends of the Earth Melbourne office delved into Mehmet’s background.

They searched the Australian Securities Investment Commission database for a company called Universal Axiom, which the informant had said was the name of Mehmet’s firm. Sure enough, Universal Axiom existed. It was set up in January 2000, just weeks after Mehmet quit the police.

An internet search revealed Universal Axiom’s website, which promoted the firm’s ability to “address difficult and sensitive issues”.

The Friends of the Earth campaigner who took the initial call from the informant dialled the number he was given.

The man answered and repeated his allegations against Mehmet, hinting that the companies he worked for were US nuclear giant General Atomics, owner of South Australia’s Beverley uranium mine, and Melbourne’s North Ltd, owner of Jabiluka before Rio Tinto’s takeover in late 2000.

A warning went around groups such as Nuclear Free Australia, Barricade Books and radio 3CR.

For those who had long held doubts about Mehmet, the outing of his true identity and purpose explained much about his behaviour.

It made it clear why he had been so angry a few months earlier when he was excluded from the small protest to mark the official opening of the Beverley mine in February 2001.

When the handful of protesters returned from the SA desert and back into mobile phone range, they were greeted by a series of increasingly furious messages from Mehmet.

“It was a bit weird at the time. We couldn’t work out why he was so desperate to be at the opening. Maybe being there with us would get him another pay cheque,” one of the protesters said.

Baillieu takes aim at police spying
Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie
The Age
October 17, 2008

OPPOSITION Leader Ted Baillieu has demanded the State Government and police Chief Commissioner reveal how they guard against improper police spying…

That’s easy.

Outsource it.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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4 Responses to Mehmet Ersoy/Osman : Former officer hired to spy

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