149 charges of fraud against Aus MP

2013-01-31 15:02

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Sydney - Australian police on Thursday arrested a member of parliament accused of spending union money on prostitutes, air travel and lavish meals and charged him with 149 counts of fraud, reports said.

MP Craig Thomson declined an offer to surrender himself and was arrested at his electorate office in the state of New South Wales, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted police as saying. He was bailed to appear in court on 6 February.

Thomson was last year asked to quit the ruling Labour Party of Prime Minister Julia Gillard because of the allegations, despite her already precarious minority government, and has since been sitting as an independent.

His arrest came just a day after Gillard made the surprise announcement that general elections would be held in September.

Police have for more than a year been probing allegations Thomson improperly used money belonging to the Health Services Union on prostitutes, travel, entertainment, and cash withdrawals in excess of $105 000.

The accusations relate to Thomson's time as national secretary of the union prior to his becoming an MP.

Escort service

Speaking to reporters outside court in the town of Wyong, just north of Sydney, where he appeared for a brief bail application, the 48-year-old strongly denied the charges.

"Every fibre of my being is screaming out to say how wrong this is," the Herald quoted him as saying. "As I have said from the start, I have done no wrongdoing," he said. "I'll be vigorously defending these charges."

The charge sheet alleges he used a credit card in a payment to an escort service in February 2003, the Australian Associated Press reported.

Gillard declined to comment on Thomson's arrest and denied that she knew beforehand that police were going to charge Thomson, according to AAP.

The Sydney Morning Herald said that Thomson would be disqualified from parliament if he was convicted of a criminal offence that carried a jail term of one year or more.

Read more on:    julia gillard  |  australia
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