Australia

Developer charged in National Australia Bank kidnap case

Clive Palmer, June 2014 Image copyright Cole Bennetts
Image caption Clive Palmer made a fortune in mining and established the Palmer United Party in 2013

A developer accused of enlisting Australian politician Clive Palmer's media advisor in a criminal conspiracy has returned to Australia to face charges.

Multi-millionaire Tony Smith is charged with being part of a conspiracy to kidnap a bank executive.

In December, police arrested Mr Palmer's media advisor Andrew Crook over his part in the alleged scheme.

Police said Mr Palmer knew nothing about the alleged conspiracy.

Tony Smith, who is also a former Australian footballer, is alleged to have organised the "very elaborate" and "bizarre" scheme, police said.

Mr Smith allegedly threatened to use corrupt police to have his former manager at National Australia Bank (NAB) jailed for life in Indonesia, local media reported.

Mr Crook, who has also worked as a publicist for Mr Smith, was allegedly an accomplice in luring the banker to Indonesia with a bogus offer of a job with Mr Palmer.

The banker was a witness in a legal case involving Mr Smith and NAB. The conspirators allegedly tried to get him to recant his evidence.

Police said the banker was held for several hours, and had his mobile phone, wallet and passport taken.

Snap election

The charges came hours before a decision by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to call a snap state government election for 31 January.

Mr Newman visited Government House this morning to meet Acting Governor Tim Carmody for the issue of writs for an election.

Mr Newman is a fierce political rival of Clive Palmer, a billionaire miner whose Palmer United Party's senators wield crucial swing votes in the federal parliament.

Mr Palmer said his party would stand candidates across Queensland. He described the snap election as a response to Mr Newman's deteriorating popularity as premier.

"Of course the polls have moved drastically against the government, more Queenslanders are moving against him and that's why he's moved so quickly, because he's running scared," Mr Palmer told ABC News.

Mr Palmer, who made his fortune in mining and won a seat in the lower house of parliament in 2013, said at the time of Mr Crook's arrest he did not know anything about the allegations.

But he appeared to suggest that the case could be politically motivated, saying that the Queensland government "don't like the opposition we've been giving them in the Senate".

"I'm personally very concerned because Mr Crook is our media advisor and if they wanted to attack me or our party they can do that," he said.

Police brushed aside Mr Palmer's claim the police investigation could be politically motivated, saying it stemmed from a pre-existing investigation connected to a civil matter dating back to 2012.

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