Blackmail charges against Victorian CFMEU bosses dropped

Blackmail charges against two Victorian construction union bosses have been dropped.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union state leaders John Setka and Shaun Reardon have fought charges relating to allegations they blackmailed Boral managers Paul Dalton and Peter Head at a cafe meeting in April 2013.

It was alleged the pair had threatened to blockade Boral plants and trucks if the company refused to meet union demands.

But prosecutors dropped the charges on Wednesday, during a pre-trial committal hearing in Melbourne magistrates court.

“After a careful assessment of the evidence we’ve heard, I have instructions to withdraw the charges against both accused,” the prosecutor, Ray Gibson, said.

“I understand there will be no application for costs by the defence.”

Setka and Reardon’s legal team agreed with the approach, as did the magistrate.

“I think it’s a very sensible resolution to this matter,” the magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg said.

The meeting at North Melbourne’s Auction Rooms cafe was called by Boral in the hope the union would lift a blackban on its cement deliveries.

At the time of the meeting, the CFMEU was waging industrial war against building giant Grocon, which Boral supplied with cement.

The union wanted to appoint its own occupational health and safety representatives at Grocon sites.

Dalton gave evidence during Setka and Reardon’s committal hearing, which was to determine if there was enough evidence to send them to trial. Dalton said Boral had organised the meeting with an aim to “do a deal” with the union officials.

Defence counsel Neil Clelland QC had suggested the meeting began jovially.

“You shook hands, ordered coffee and Mr Setka and Mr Reardon joked about their weight loss challenge,” Clelland said.

Setka and Reardon were charged in 2015 after an investigation by a joint Victorian and federal police unit, following a referral by the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption.

They had fought hard to get the charges dropped, taking the long-running case to the supreme court at one point.

Source: The Guardian

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