By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
In February 2019, Sarah Rogers, the girlfriend of sacked Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg, pleaded guilty to providing misleading information to investigators over advice Mr Quaedvlieg had given her in 2017 to help her secure a job within his department at the Sydney Airport.
According to a statement of agreed facts, Ms Rogers, 24, told the corruption probe Mr Quaedvlieg, 54, had not provided her advice regarding the Border Force recruitment process – her application of which was initially unsuccessful before she tried again in October 2016.
At the time of her hearing, Ms Rogers insisted Mr Quaedvlieg had no bearing on her controversial employment, saying, “Roman had nothing to do with … giving me advice on how to do things or where to look for, you know.”
However, in early June 2017, after she handed over her mobile phone as the probe into the commissioner’s conduct began, investigators discovered a bounty of text messages between the pair which revealed she had received extensive advice from her lover on how to navigate the recruitment process, even tapping his own senior staff to help her.
It was thus clear Ms Rogers had given false evidence.
Mr Quaedvlieg was sacked in March for abusing his power by helping Ms Rogers secure her job at the Australian Border Force.
Ms Rogers Sentenced to Community Service for Lying about Relationship
Downing Centre Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson sentenced Ms Rogers to a seven-month intensive corrections order, including 100 hours community service, after finding she purposefully tried to frustrate the investigation to favour her partner.
“The falsities were blatant and sustained,” Magistrate Atkinson said.
Additionally, Magistrate Atkinson noted Rogers had been told both orally and in writing not to discuss the inquiry with Mr Quaedvlieg.
“The fact there was a relationship where partners disclose things doesn’t provide an excuse … it affects the way in which they may prepare for the (inquiry) matters.”
Ultimately, despite Ms Rogers’ youth and absence of previous convictions, the magistrate said a deterrent was necessary because she “deliberately obstructed” investigations.
Mr Quaedvlieg was not charged and denied any wrongdoing.
The pair did not comment upon leaving the court.
Lawyer for Ms Rogers say she was “Torn Between Love and Truth”, Extensively Interrogated about “Intimate” Relationship with Mr Quaedvlieg
According to Ms Rogers’ lawyer, Bryan Wrench, his client had been a “mouse in the political jungle” who did not set out to deceive but was simply torn between love and truth. In her “naivety”, she had merely been trying to protect her lover.
Mr Wrench said when she was forced to appear before the corruption investigation by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity into Mr Quaedvlieg, she had been extensively interrogated for two days.
He noted Ms Rogers was grilled over Mr Quaedvlieg’s involvement in her two attempts to get work in his department in August and December 2016.
However, he said she was also pressed on a series of very personal issues, including being interrogated about when she first became “intimate” with Mr Quaedvlieg and whether she had been aware he was in another relationship at the time they met.
“This is a tension between the law and the emotional entanglement of being in a relationship with someone,” Mr Wrench said.
“This is not a fly by night relationship … they are still together today.”
Ms Rogers and Mr Quaedvlieg – 30 years her senior – first communicated with each other online in March 2016. The following month they met in person and by August that year it had bloomed into a full-blown romance, beginning their intimate relationship.
This was the same month Ms Rogers applied for a Border Force Recruit Traineeship.
The Law on Providing False or Misleading Information in NSW
In NSW, it is an offence to provide false or misleading information in particular circumstances.
This offence carries a maximum penalty of up to 2-years imprisonment and/or $22,000 fine under section 307B Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
A person will be guilty of this offence if he/she knowingly provides false or misleading information, or if he/she knowingly omits information without which causes it to be misleading information to:
- A public authority, or
- A person who’s exercising or performing a power, authority, duty or a function under a law of the state; or
- In compliance or purported compliance with a law of the state.
What are the Defences to this Charge?
A person who is accused of providing false or misleading information will be ‘not guilty’ if:
- The information isn’t misleading or false in a material particular; or
- If it’s alleged that the information was given to a public authority, the accused person will not be guilty if the public authority didn’t take reasonable steps to inform the accused person of the existence of this offence before he/she gave the information to the public authority; or
- If it’s alleged that the information was given to a person exercising or performing a power/authority/duty or function under the state’s law, then the accused person will not be guilty if that second person failed to take reasonable steps to inform the accused person of the existence of this offence before the information was given.
- The accused person acted under a necessity or a duress.
Providing false or misleading information to other bodies where a financial gain is obtained or a financial loss is caused, for example to Centrelink can lead to serious consequences involving a penalty of up to 5-years imprisonment under section 135.1(1) or (3) and/or 135.1(5) Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
The maximum penalty is 10-years prison for obtaining a financial advantage with deception and dishonesty under section 134.2 Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). This offence is also known as Centrelink fraud in Australia.
Have a question about fraud offences? Our criminal lawyers specialise in Centrelink and fraud cases who can offer fixed fees with a free first appointment. Call us 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.