Experienced WA lawyers are keen on a critical legal challenge to the treasure trove of evidence uncovered by secret app AN0M – which, if successful, could derail what Australian authorities have called “the most important operation ever.” of policing history.
Last year, the Australian Federal Police finally revealed the daring sting they had been working on for years – an encrypted messaging app sold to criminals around the world and monitored in real time.
Until the big reveal last June, hundreds of suspected drug kingpins, arms dealers and money launderers were spied on before being arrested.
In WA, 29 people were initially charged, 31 firearms were seized and over 76 kilograms of illicit drugs and $9.5 million in cash were recovered.
Among those arrested were associates of exiled Comanchero boss Ray Cilli, pictured below, a lawyer with alleged ties to the same biker gang, and two men accused of working with a Turkey-based Comanchero suspected by the FBI to be a global drug lord.
But now some of Australia’s top legal minds are gearing up to crack claims that Operation Ironside was authorized by Australia’s telecommunications laws.
These challenges will revolve around the reliability of the evidence obtained, whether the correct warrants were obtained to seize that evidence – and whether the FBI and AFP operation was legal.
And Perth lawyers are watching closely.
Solicitor Paul Holmes, who represents several Ironside defendants, said the outcome of the test cases in Adelaide and Sydney will set a key precedent.
“If the courts there – and potentially the High Court – rule that the AN0M messages cannot be used as evidence, then it all becomes the poison tree,” Mr Holmes said.
“It’s about the legislation that was used and what resulted from it.”
One of those lawyers ready to challenge the huge sting is Bret Walker SC – fresh off his murderous defense of Mark McGowan in his action against Clive Palmer
Another barrister representing a defendant from Ironside in Perth told The West Australian: ‘If they stand up then the Crown has big problems with all of them.’
And The West understands that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has also made its own inquiries with the State’s Attorney’s Office about potential legal issues.
In recent hearings in South Australia, a judge ruled that defense lawyers can access the source code under “controlled and secure conditions” by specialists.
This followed arguments that AFP was unlawfully intercepting the message without a warrant under the Telecommunications Act.
“It’s no different to illegally tapping someone’s phone,” said Michael Abbot QC.