Senior Victoria police will probe corruption claims against a Melbourne council, including the alleged planting of a slug in a suburban caterer’s kitchen.
- I Cook Foods was closed in 2019 after a series of health inspections
- The company accused food inspectors of planting a slug in the kitchen of the business
- A leaked briefing note from the initial police investigation found prosecution of the business was “malicious”
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton has been forced to intervene after a leaked police brief found corruption concerns and recommended further investigation by police.
But further investigation never occurred, triggering claims of a cover-up from the owners of the closed caterer I Cook Foods.
In the brief, seen by the ABC, Detective Sergeant Ash Penry said, “It became evident to me that a level of corruption, misuse of office and a malicious prosecution were involved in this matter.”
In 2019, I Cook Foods was closed by the City of Greater Dandenong and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) after a series of inspections triggered by the death of a woman with listeria in a hospital the company catered.
It was later shown that the elderly woman did not die directly of listeriosis and that the level of listeria detected in food at the Dandenong South kitchen were within the food standards.
The company was charged with nearly 100 breaches of food safety laws, including the presence of a slug in the kitchen.
The company accused the council of planting the slug and before the case went to court, all charges were dropped.
Ever since, the business has been fighting to clear its name and reputation, but has had to shed 41 jobs and has lost millions of dollars.
Victoria Police has confirmed it has received a letter of complaint from the owner of I Cook Foods, Ian Cook, about the police investigation into the closure of his business.
A Greater Dandenong Council spokesperson today said it remained “extremely confident” any investigation would clear it of any wrongdoing.
“We reiterate that Greater Dandenong City Council did not make the decision to close I Cook foods,” she said.
Initial police investigation found closure was unlawful
The letter of complaint was prompted by the leaking of Detective Sergeant Penry’s briefing note.
Detective Sergeant Penry’s initial investigation found the closure notices issued to the business were unlawful and led to the destruction of $700,000 worth of food.
The officer also alleges that laboratory results, that ultimately showed no evidence of listeria at I Cook Foods, were withheld until contracts held by the company became null and void.
Victoria Police says a senior officer has been appointed to review the case, which an assistant commissioner will have oversight of.
The letter of complaint has also been forwarded to Professional Standards Command to determine whether an internal investigation is required.
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton told Melbourne radio station 3AW that the letter raises significant allegations that merit investigation.
“What I’ve said is I want a detective superintendent out in that relevant area, someone who’s a trained investigator, to assess the totality of the investigation,” he said.
“We’re talking about someone’s livelihood someone’s business so I want to be absolutely clear that our investigation has been as thorough and as appropriate as it should be.”
“We had two former police officers I believe turn over something like 17 volumes of material for consideration, so we’ve assessed that apparently, but what have we actually done internally is what I’m asking.”
No timeline has been given for completion of the investigation.