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Russ Weninger, who represented one-time Australian Crime Commission (ACC) informant Stevan Utah in a landmark asylum claim, said damning findings by the Canadian Refugee board "should be embarrassing to Australian authorities".
The ABC revealed on Monday that the tribunal found Australian authorities failed to adequately protect Mr Utah, after a 2006 press release by the crime commission inadvertently "outed" him as a registered informant.
It also found the betrayal of Mr Utah, who is subject to active contracts for his killing, took place amid a "broader pattern" of witness protection failures "due to corruption, ineptness and structural difficulties" within the country's law enforcement.
Mr Weninger said the findings of "widespread corruption" were a "black eye" to the country.
"I hate to say it, but if you're someone who's considering to be an informant for law enforcement in Australia, you should maybe think twice after hearing Mr Utah's story — because you could quite possibly end up dead," Mr Weninger told the ABC from his Calgary office.
The ACC's former witness protection chief, Roman Quaedvlieg, agreed that the revelations would discourage other informants from helping investigators who needed them more than ever, as crime groups increasingly hid their communications through encryption technology.
Mr Weninger said it was "quite rare that a Canadian tribunal would find that there's corruption in law enforcement in another country such as Australia, [which is] considered to be one of the cream of the crop in terms of developed democracies".
"So it is a black eye for a Canadian tribunal to be determining that there is fairly widespread corruption, or at least there was fairly widespread corruption among law enforcement in Australia," he said.
Mr Quaedvlieg would not confirm Mr Utah's involvement with the crime commission but said he had "some personal knowledge of enforcement matters" involving him before 2006.
He worked at the agency while Mr Utah was its registered informant, leaving the ACC before Mr Utah was — according to the Canadian ruling — exposed to his bikie associates.
"It is regretful that this case, and the attendant criticisms of Australia's human source management capabilities, has been aired so publicly," Mr Quaedvlieg said.
"The creation of any perception that human sources will not have their welfare managed appropriately is a disincentive for them to collaborate with enforcement."
Mr Weninger said if police in any country wanted informants to "assist them doing very, very dangerous jobs, they have to go to bat for them at the end of the day".
"The Australian authorities didn't go to bat for Mr Utah. They hung him out to dry. And if you have a reputation for doing that, you're not going to be able to attract quality informants," he said.
Mr Quaedvlieg said he was not aware of the circumstances leading to Mr Utah gaining refugee protection.
"Experience informs me that with high-level human sources, it is often the case that many versions of the truth exist," he said.
No Australian authorities testified in Mr Utah's refugee hearing.
Former Australian Federal Police commander Phil Kowalick — whose academic study of problems within Australia's witness protection was cited in Mr Utah's hearing — told the ABC he disagreed with "any suggestion of corruption in witness protection".
"[But] I certainly agree that the way that we currently do witness protection in Australia could be done much better," Mr Kowalick said.
He said the issue of whether Mr Utah was treated fairly remained a "serious question".
"We've seen one side of the story, we haven't seen the other. We're not likely to either, because of the secrecy provisions around the act," he said.
Mr Weninger said the refugee hearing was also unusual because Mr Utah was allowed to address the tribunal in an "impassioned plea about how he didn't look like a refugee".
"He was a white guy from Australia … a tough and crude Australian fellow who by all accounts no-one would expect to be a refugee, but nonetheless he was," he said.
"He made his case eloquently and I think I even observed tears coming down the cheek of the member at that time."
The immigration lawyer said he was "shocked at first" to encounter an Australian claiming asylum in Canada, which was "unheard of".
"I thought [Mr Utah] might be some sort of mentally ill person, to put it mildly, I thought it might just be a brazen attempt to acquire immigration status in Canada," Mr Weninger said.
"But after talking with Mr Utah, I realised that it wasn't completely spurious, that in fact he did have a very good refugee claim."
Mr Weninger said his client — a former soldier — was "a star witness, extremely intelligent and a bit of a control freak".
"If he didn't have those characteristics, I think he would have long ago been killed," he said.
The ACC, now known as the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, and Queensland Police and the Foreign Affairs Minister have all declined to comment on the case.