Costas Socratous, despite apparently admitting to the newspaper that he stole tens of thousands of dollars from the ALP and rorted its internal procedures, is now unwilling to co-operate with an ALP investigation.
WONâ€™T CO-OPERATE WITH INVESTIGATION NOW
Instead the self-confessed thief wants to be probed by the feisty cardigan-wearers at the Ombudsmanâ€™s office. Socratous, of course, knows the Omboâ€™s staff well from his time on the Brimbank council where he was an informant. He was dead keen on presenting for an interview with the ABCâ€™s Josie Taylor, who is the daughter of the Deputy Ombudsman and ex-cop John Taylor. He clumsily read out awkward lines that had the feel of being fed to him by the reporter like â€œYes, I created a branch-stacking empire.â€ These are not words commonly used in ALP parlance, even by the most immodest of warlords, they reeked of being spoon-fed to him.
It was an embarrassing effort even for Taylor who continues to report on Victorian politics and matters relating to the Ombudsman despite a serious conflict of interest.
Of course, the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over incidents of theft nor over electorate officers generally as employees of the Victorian Parliament. No doubt when the Ombudsman comes back and says so, the Liberals will say that supports their argument for replacing the Ombudsman with a politician-hunting anti-corruption commission with public show-trials and such. An election year stunt, to be sure.
CRIMINALS SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED BY POLICE
But beyond the political shadow-boxing, the one law enforcement agency to which Socratous should be accountable is Victoria Police.
His self-confessed crimes are not political. Theft is theft, regardless of what he says he spent the stolen money on.
At this point, the apparent victim of Socratousâ€™s crimes, the ALP, is trying to make sense of what heâ€™s claimed in the Age.
And, surprise, surprise, when their state secretary Nick Reece phones the man to ask him to provide the same information heâ€™s told the newspaper, Socratous suddenly refuses to co-operate.
Keen to ensure the obviously dishonest Socratous wasnâ€™t setting him up by denying his refusal, Reece even wrote to him making it clear heâ€™s keen to hear his claims and admissions so they can be properly investigated.
And thereâ€™ll never be a reply other than a smoke-screen.
Heâ€™s wanted to get revenge without actually being accountable for his own admissions of wrongdoing.
VEXNEWS understands that all of this has been enough to give even those in command at The Age very serious reservations about Socratousâ€™s story. You can hardly blame them.
NOT A CREDIBLE WITNESS
The day after his front-page claims and admissions, we have the extraordinary situation of a self-confessed thief admitting his wrong-doing publicly but refusing to tell the victim of his crimes exactly what heâ€™s done.
So perhaps Socratous will do the decent thing and report himself to Victoria Police so he can be charged for the crimes of theft heâ€™s already admitted.
The ALP can conduct its own investigation into its own bank accounts and branch membership. It could even complain to the Police about Socratous once they establish whether heâ€™s really done what heâ€™s says heâ€™s done.
But if Socratous is to be believed he must truly account for his admitted acts of theft, false accounting and even money laundering, as he puts it. He should immediately return the stolen funds, which he says amounts to tens of thousands of dollars, to the ALP. He should also present to his nearest Victoria Police station to confess to them in the legally appropriate way.
The Age and Socratous and even the Liberals David Davis seem to misunderstand the dimensions of whatâ€™s gone on here.
We can only hope that speculation around Spring Street that Socratous went to the Liberals to discuss a financial incentive for coming forward is not correct. While David Davis admitted yesterday that Liberals â€“ believed to include Baillieu COS Michael Kapel â€“ met with Socratous, itâ€™s not certain what they discussed and why it took so long between their meeting and yesterdayâ€™s report. â€œPerhaps the details of a financial arrangement were being concluded,â€ one Liberal speculated to VEXNEWS yesterday.
A LOSS OF PERSPECTIVE
There has been widespread reporting of his branch-stacking claims but Socratousâ€™s admission of theft has barely got any attention at all. In the twisted perversity of the banal inner-city left at The Age and ABC, branch-stacking is a vastly greater act of wrong-doing than theft.
Socratousâ€™s branch-stacking allegations will be considered by the ALP. But thatâ€™s only half the story with this bloke. Heâ€™s stolen money, by his own admission. The Parliament has heard claims that he is a gambling addict who has been pursuing enormous payouts from WorkCover and so on.
Socratous seems not to get it. He told the Deputy Ombudsmanâ€™s daughter Josie Taylor on the ABC that he â€œhas nothing to fearâ€ yet he is admitting systematic acts of theft. Itâ€™s deeply puzzling. Itâ€™s hard to imagine this man has competent legal advice.
Before The Age and ABC invest too much in this manâ€“ the only outlets enthusiastically reporting Socratousâ€™s claims â€“ theyâ€™d do well consider that there is no branch-stacking defence to theft charges.
These stories tend to go nowhere. It is well understood that they are timed for political effect.
But in this case, we hope Costas Socratous is brought to justice. By his own admission, he belongs in jail.