Australia’s most decorated soldier has hit back to deny a series of what he calls ‘entirely untrue’ allegations made about him.
SAS veteran and Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith strenuously denied burying USB in his backyard in explosive claims aired by 60 Minutes on Sunday night.
Australian Federal Police confirmed on Wednesday a new investigation had been launched in the wake of the fresh allegations.
Mr Roberts-Smith initially chose not to rebut the specific allegations made on the 60 Minutes or in subsequent articles published by Nine Media.
Ben Roberts-Smith (pictured) has denied a series of ‘entirely untrue’ allegations made against him on 60 Minutes through a lengthy statement issued by his lawyer
His lawyer has since issued a lengthy statement on behalf of Mr Roberts-Smith, stating he was under ‘sustained attacks’ from journalists Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters as well as Nine.
‘The allegation that he ‘hid’ or failed to disclose material to the Assistant Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force during the Afghanistan Inquiry is false,’ lawyer Mark O’Brien said.
‘Mr Roberts-Smith fully cooperated with the Afghanistan Inquiry.’
Allegations Mr Roberts-Smith threatened any witness or potential witness to the Afghanistan Inquiry to stop them giving evidence is false, his lawyer added.
Allegations he buried USBs in his backyard are also false and ‘simply did not happen’.
‘The allegation Mr Roberts-Smith’s former matrimonial home was raided by the Australian Federal Police in 2020 or at any time and USBs ‘covertly seized’ is false ,’ Mr O’Brien said.
Ben Roberts-Smith (pictured In January with partner Sarah Matulin) strenuously denied ‘false’ allegations that he buried USB in his backyard
Mr Roberts-Smith is suing Nine, the publishers of The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times over articles he says defamed him in suggesting he committed war crimes in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012.
The defamation trial is scheduled to began in the Federal Court on June 7 after it was delayed by 12 months by the pandemic.
‘The conduct of Mr McKenzie, Mr Masters and Nine so close to the commencement of the trial is of grave concern and appears to be either an attempt to intimidate Mr Roberts-Smith into discontinuing his defamation proceedings, or to punish him for bringing them,’ Mr O’Brien said.
‘It will neither intimidate nor deter him from proceeding with the trial and bringing the respondents, including Mr McKenzie to account for the lies they have published about him.’
‘Mr Roberts-Smith risked his life for his country, having served in Afghanistan over six years through scores of missions where his safety and that of other members of the SAS was in constant jeopardy.’
‘He does not seek any special treatment because of those facts, but only the same impartial reporting that is the right of any Australian whose acts may deserve public attention.’
Mr Roberts-Smith has not been contacted by the APF in relation to a new investigation.
‘If they do, he will co-operate with any investigation, as he has always done,’ Mr O’Brien ended the statement.
SAS veteran Ben Roberts-Smith (pictured in action) is a decorated Victoria Cross recipient
Earlier on Wednesday, Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Ian McCartney confirmed to a Senate inquiry the matter was being investigated.
‘The AFP has opened an investigation into aspects of that media reporting,’ he said.
But he declined to say whether the AFP was in possession of any USB drives.
‘Given it’s an ongoing investigation we’d prefer not to provide a running commentary.’
Police confirmed The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald had referred the allegations on March 25, more than two weeks before publishing.
It was deemed a sensitive investigation on March 29.
Ben Roberts-Smith (pictured) has not been contacted by the Australian Federal Police in relation to a new investigation
Mr McCartney would not confirm what the investigation centred on but said witness intimidation was a serious issue.
‘Some of the allegations that have been raised are serious and it’s being treated as a priority by the Australian Federal Police,’ he said.
AFP has previously confirmed it was investigating allegations of war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, but has refused to confirm or deny specific incidents or identify who was being investigated.
AFP denied to comment when contacted by Daily Mail Australia on Sunday night regarding the allegations aired by 60 Minutes.