AFP officer brought down by search for fake drug dealer

A suspended n Federal Police officer who was part of a prime ministerial security detail was caught leaking information on a drug investigation after police set up an elaborate sting in 2013.

Ben Hampton, 46, joined the AFP in 1999 and worked mostly as a “close personal protection officer” based at the agency’s Sydney headquarters until he was suspended in May 2014.

A court heard Hampton was closely involved in protecting Prime Minister Julia Gillard, other senior politicians including an Opposition leader, and the family of then-Prime Minister John Howard.

He also served in high-risk postings overseas in East Timor and the Solomon Islands, where he provided protection to political leaders in times of unrest.

Hampton’s high-flying career came unstuck when the n Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity began an investigation into Nathan Rodgers, an associate of the Bra Boys who was suspected of being involved in the importation of drugs.

On Christmas Eve 2013, officers from a task force made false entries on the AFP’s computer intelligence system, PROMIS, as part of a plan to smoke out a source within the AFP who was giving Rodgers internal information.

The entries were about a fictitious crime figure, Tiago Vasquez, who was importing border-controlled drugs from South America.

A civilian – whose name is confidential – then approached Rodgers to see if he had any contacts who could find out if the figure was co-operating with police after his arrest.

Rodgers said such information would cost $12,000, but there is no evidence Hampton knew of this discussion about money.

Hampton only met Rodgers once in 2005, an interaction he reported to his AFP superiors, but he frequently trained at a gym with one of Rodgers’ friends, Jayson Laing.

On January 16, 2014, Hampton and Laing trained together at a gym in Alexandria for about an hour. Laing told Hampton about Vasquez, giving a cover story about why he wanted the information.

An hour and six minutes after leaving the gym, Hampton searched in the AFP system for the civilian, and looked at entries relating to them for 11 minutes. He then searched for Tiago Vasquez and looked at the false entries that had been made.

The next day, he met with Laing near the same Alexandria gym and relayed the information he had found.

An agreed statement of facts, tendered to the NSW District Court as part of Hampton’s sentencing, details how Hampton and Laing then trained at another gym on January 29, where Laing slipped $7000 into the officer’s gym bag.

“There is something in your bag for ya from Nathan,” Laing said. Hampton did not request the money or know about it before it was given to him.

Hampton accessed Vasquez’s record once more, but found no further information he could tell Laing.

Six weeks later, Hampton was suspended, and in July 2014 he was arrested and charged with dishonestly receiving a benefit which would tend to influence a Commonwealth public official in the exercise of their duties.

He has pleaded guilty to the offence, and has also admitted to providing internal AFP training manuals to a former colleague who intended to use the information to train prison guards overseas.

In a sentencing hearing, former AFP officer Andrew Stark said he had worked with Hampton in close personal protection and found him to be an honest, deeply religious person who didn’t drink or smoke.

Mr Stark said Hampton has volunteered at Sydney’s Hillsong church for the last three years, offering them advice on how to increase their security.

“I’ve been made aware that, post this matter, either myself or the church will be happy to employ Ben on a full-time basis,” Mr Stark said.

The sentencing will continue on Wednesday.

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