I know that there are many our there who disagree vehemently with my continued criticism of the QRIC ‘investigation’ into Ben ‘the Tornado’ Currie.
(I use the word ‘investigation’ loosely, because no-one actually knows what if anything is being investigated, and QRIC aren’t saying).
Those who hold that I have it wrong claim that I am defending the Tornado, but that just ain’t right.
I’m defending everyone in racing, and standing up for the right to operate your stables and your business without you and your family and your staff and their family and friends being harassed unmercifully, for that’s what is happening to Ben Currie right now, and if we all stand by silently and watch then next time it could happen to you.
It’s already happened to me, and given that the police have had my computer for the five months since they have seized it then it’s probably London to a Brick on that it will again, given that no-one is supervising those whose control it is in and are therefore unable to monitor what might or might not be added to it or altered.
When you think through the possibilities, and remember that QRIC have IT experts on staff and contractors who sign confidentiality agreements at their beck and call, it becomes a bloody scary thought I can assure you. It would probably keep me awake at night worrying if I was able to sleep during darkness, but I can’t so it doesn’t, yet still it’s a damn real concern.
It’s one that you might face one day too if the QRIC Internal Investigations Unit cast their beady eyes on you and decide you are guilty before they even start looking at you properly, and then plan and execute a strategy designed to pound you into submission so you break or give up.
That’s exactly what’s happening to Ben Currie.
QRIC raid his stables on a big race day after having them under surveillance all week, and swab seven of the trainer’s horses. All of the swabs later come back clean.
They put out a press release saying they are there to clean up the sport, and that big race days the presence of big racing coppers.
Then the Gold Coast’s big race day rolls around and QRIC are too busy to attend, because they are grilling the Tornado’s Mum who isn’t even a licensee and didn’t even have to travel from Toowoomba to front the Vegas inquisitors, but wanted to because she has had a lifelong (misplaced) belief in the law and in police integrity, and wanted to go before the people harassing her son and tell them that they have got it all wrong, and that their informants are self-interested racing industry people who would gain by having her son gone.
Ten Thousand day comes and goes, and no mass-scale QRIC preventative operation is launched, even though they would have found plenty of examples of corruption if they’d decided to raid the BRC offices across the road at Eagle Farm, or popped their heads into the Chief De Beers room for a quiet chat with a few punters who don’t bet, or only on sure things anyway.
They charge Currie’s father and stand him down for administering a simple vitamin solution sold over the counter at Garrard’s Horse and Hound, even though only a month before they have defied the Victorian and NSW authorities by continuing to allow Liam Birchley to train despite the serious allegations made in the Aquanita affair that had led their interstate counterparts to withhold his training permit.
What’s so different about Mark Currie that he has to be treated differently? His surname of course. Just for good measure and to make him a good thing of it QRIC throw in four corruption charges, even though they are a million to one of the charges ever sticking.
They call Ben Currie in to please explain. He does, and QRIC charge him with not a single thing, but the transcripts of his interview issued later look and sound very different to the recordings that may or may not have been made by someone present in the room on the day, and maybe when the matter finds its way into proper courts rather than circus ring chambers the racing coppers might discover that they aren’t the only one who wear watches with built-in recording devices, and for now that’s all I will say about that.
Unable to nail Currie for unknown breaches or the rules of racing the former murder investigators on mid-career leave from the force and now running the racing squad (because jobs there offer big pay increases) decide to apply the investigative techniques that saw them secure convictions in the McCulkin Murder trials forty years after the event, ignoring the fact that this is a sport and that no one has killed anyone but it doesn’t matter anyway.
The QRIC brass in the positions created post-live bating hysteria have to do something about something in order to justify their jobs, and for now and until next time the Tornado’s that something. Clean swabs mean nothing. We’re all guilty before we start, and if we’re not then surely we are, and if QRIC can’t prove it they’ll find a way to prove it and hooks and crooks and dodged up transcript books mean nothing because there is a bigger picture at play.
These blokes have broken the rules of racing. The QRIC mob might not any have any evidence but they can feel it in their waters, and divine providence delivered by water diviners can never be wrong, not until it is anyway.
QRIC move from harassing Currie and his family to hassling his staff. They turn up at the stables out of the blue and force the uneducated casual workers on low racing industry wages to submit to invasive bodily fluid samples, and tell them they will lose their racing licenses and their livelihoods if they refuse to provide them, even though these people are just ordinary Australians going to work to earn a quid to put food on their family’s tables, and there isn’t a grain of salt worth of evidence to say they’ve done a single thing wrong.
The personal drug tests all come back clean, so QRIC raid Currie’s stables again, turning up out of nowhere by the carload carrying pieces of paper that aren’t warrants because under the crazy new laws introduces a couple of years ago they don’t need them, and can do whatever the hell they goddamn like.
What they do is demand that all the punters living hand to mouth below the poverty line and working shovelling shit of stalls in the Tornado’s stables hand over their phones, their lifelines to their friends and families and kids and the world at large, for no reason at all other than that QRIC’s highly paid investigators can’t find what the feeling in their waters tells them must surely be there, and so they are fishing.
One bloke, a stablehand named Silde Canda, panics at the thought of losing his iPhone, knowing that he hasn’t got the funds to replace it and will be cut off from the world if it is gone, and in his panicked state – and without being afforded any opportunity to seek advice from a lawyer or any person who knows anything about the law or the rules – the hugely popular all round sportsman who plays both state level soccer and A-grade local rugby league says he accidentally smashed it the day before.
QRIC find a phone in his car. Whether or not its the one he was referring to as being smashed is irrelevant to the authorities. He’s a Currie staff member and the trainer’s mate from school, and they’ve got him.
Canda is charged late yesterday with providing false evidence to stewards, and less than 24 hours later is hauled before the stewards and thrown out of the racing game for three months, and suddenly he’s on the dole.
That Silde Canda was not actually giving evidence because he wasn’t before a properly constituted inquiry or tribunal, or making a lawfully required statement – and therefore could not in a million years have provided false evidence to anybody – doesn’t seem to matter to QRIC a single bit.
Nothing much does in the star chamber or in the circus that racing officialdom has become. It’s QRIC’s way or the highway, and as they’ve just demonstrated with Silde when it comes to a person’s right to earn a living through racing they have the power of God, or do temporarily at least and if you want to challenge them to show that their actions are excessive and undue and exceed their powers by six furlongs then you better get a lawyer son, and have real deep pockets, because QRIC do. With our money.
This has become outrageous, and the Silde Canda conviction and penalty is the perfect example of why.
In 2002 Bernadette Cooper – now a famous much-loved racing media personality, but in those days a rising star jockey – was charged by NSW racing stewards with two counts under the exact same rule as Silde with an almost identical breach of it, although Bernie’s was by any reasonable assessment more serious than Canda’s. Cooper had lied about having a mobile phone in her racing kit bag in the jockey’s room, and had lied about what is was being used for, but had been sprung.
Bernie copped a $500 fine on each charge. Canda has been disqualified from earning a living in racing for three months.
He’s a mate of Ben Currie’s you see.
In 2016 a West Australian stable hand named Aaron Rogers gave false evidence in a formal interview with a Racing WA investigator. He was found guilty.
Rogers copped a $1000 fine on. Canda has been disqualified from earning a living in racing for three months.
He’s a mate of Ben Currie’s you see.
In the same year of 2016 jockey turned trainer Brent Stanley was charged under the same rule for lying to a stewards inquiry investigating the $90 000 fraud on the sale of a horse to Hong Kong.
$20 000 of the money fraudulently obtained – by telling the purchaser that the horse cost $290 000 and the vendor that it had been sold for $200 000 – was slung to jockey Glynn Schofield as a commission for acting as the go-between in arranging the sale. The other $70 000 went into Stanley’s pocket.
Stanley, Schofield, Richie Callender and Liam Prior (the stable foreman for Chris Waller) should have been referred by the stewards to police so that they could be charged with criminal offences of fraud, but for reasons still unexplained they were not.
Brent Stanley – who had made a personal gain of $70 000 from the commission of what on the face of it seems a certain crime – had lied to a formal steward’s inquiry into the matter, and then doctored a bank statement in an attempt to hide the fraud. Stanley then sent the doctored statement to stewards as evidence.
He was charged under the same rule as Silde Canda for what is clearly a far more serious offence. Canda had merely told a ooopsie doopsie in the heat of the moment, and there was no personal gain to him whatsoever. Stanley had deliberately lied, falsified documents, and tendered them as evidence with a thought out and planned intent to deceive, and he had made a personal profit of $70 000.
Brent Stanley was disqualified for 3 months. Canda was suspended for the same period, even though the pair’s rule breaches were in different stratospheres.
He’s a mate of Ben Currie’s you see.
This whole thing is a disgrace, and if you can’t see that by now you’re blind. It doesn’t matter what your views about Ben Currie are, if you truly believe that the way QRIC are going about this ‘investigation’ is acceptable then you will have no right whatsoever to complain when it happens to you or one of your friends.
Silde Cande is no criminal and he is no cheat, yet his name has been blackened forever and he’s lost his income until August for what is at best a very minor infraction of the rules by a man who was placed without warning in the gun and maybe told a small porkie pie.
For that he has been treated the same as an admitted fraudster rather than receive a fine commensurate with the offence and consistent with precedent cases, and if this bloke who earns (or more correctly did earn) 20 odd dollars an hour wants to clear his name then he will be forced to spend tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the charge against an opponent with a budget of tens of millions who can engage Queensland’s leading lawyers and fight on forever.
This is wrong, just so wrong.
All this time and money and resources and effort are being spent trying to establish that a bloody horse trainer has broken the rules, and meanwhile little kids are getting sexually abused and women are being bashed in their homes and robbers and rapists and even murderers are walking around as free as birds.
Welcome to Queensland.
The state where the more things change, the more they just stay the same.
Don’t you worry about that.
Until one day you have no choice.