Jailed Australian Neil Campbell claims FBI entrapment

AN Australian man arrested in Delhi on US justice department charges of soliciting bribes in Afghanistan has claimed he is a victim of entrapment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is innocent of all charges.

Neil Patrick Campbell, 60, of Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, faced an extradition hearing in New Delhi today and was remanded in custody awaiting a formal extradition request from the United States.

He is accused of seeking a $190,000 bribe for a building contract in Afghanistan.

Dressed in a crumpled light denim shirt and belt-less fawn trousers, a dishevelled and shellshocked-looking Mr Campbell told Judge Ajay Pandey he was willing to be extradited to the United States immediately to face federal bribery charges, which could attract a maximum ten year jail term and $250,000.

He also appealed to the judge to allow him access to fresh clothes and money so that he could buy food for himself in Delhi’s overcrowded Tihar jail where he has been held since Thursday.

But he is unlikely to be extradited any time soon after the judge advised him that the court had not yet received a formal extradition request from the US justice department.

Mr Campbell was given access to consular officials inside the court and told The Australian he was innocent of all charges against him.

“I never awarded any contract ever on my own,” he said as he was led back to the dingy lock-up.

“The system is set up so the contract can’t be awarded just by an individual. He approached me and offered me money. I told him no. He approached me three times…three times I told him.”

When asked if he felt he was the victim of entrapment Mr Campbell replied: “That’s exactly what it was.

“The FBI knew about it and instigated it. They kept saying ‘come and get your money, come and get your money’.

“I was on my way back to Australia.”

Mr Campbell said that he was being treated well in India but “the conditions are shit”.

Mr Campbell was arrested Wednesday afternoon after he arrived in Delhi on a flight from Kabul and triggered an Interpol Red Corner alert at the Indira Gandhi international airport immigration counter.

The US Justice Department indicted Mr Campbell back in August on charges of soliciting a bribe from a sub-contractor involved in a USAID-funded construction program in Afghanistan, but the charges were sealed until his arrest on Wednesday.

The Australian understands Mr Campbell is an employee of human resources company CTS Global and had been hired as a senior construction manager _ on the recommendation of USAID _ by the International Organisation for Migration, a UN affiliated agency, which has built hundreds of schools and health clinics in Afghanistan since 2002.

Part of his role was to help hire sub-contractors for IOM’s Constructiokn Health and Education Facilities (CHEF) Program.

IOM spokesman Chris Lom said the organisation had no knowledge of the bribery allegations until it was informed last month by the US Justice Department.

Authorities in India told The Australian police had uncovered $US10,000 in cash from Mr Campbell on his arrest and that he had been lured to India by undercover US agents with the promise he would receive the remaining $180,000 bribe there.

But Mr Campbell’s son Reid told reporters his father had “been through hell” and had been looking forward to a “safe and stress-free retirement”.

“He has been placed under an enormous amount of stress over a long period of time,” Reid Campbell said in a statement.

“We are still waiting for details about what will happen to him next. We are anxious to ensure he gets adequate legal representation.”

He added that his father had spent five years in Afghanistan, had been caught up in several firefights and once had a $10,000 Taliban bounty placed on his head.

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