Former Australian Diplomat Faces Thai Pornography Charges

Jeff Berg
BANGKOK — A Bangkok court on Wednesday is scheduled to view eight pornographic videotapes and 12 gay magazines during the trial of former Australian diplomat in what some are calling just “the tip of the iceberg” of a ring of pedophiles centered on the Australian diplomatic service.

Robert Scoble, 56, once described as a “witty, urbane, and politically shrewd” diplomat by colleagues, was arrested by Thai police in March for possessing and distributing pornography and employing an unregistered foreign worker.

Directly after his arraignment on those charges, Scoble was rearrested by police and charged in connection with several pornographic images of children that were allegedly discovered in his Bangkok apartment.

Scoble pleaded not guilty to the charges, which means he faces up to three years in jail.

If Scoble had pleaded guilty, a fine of roughly $192 is the common punishment.

Scoble, a former diplomat to Vietnam, left his post in 1984 amid allegations that he had sent semi-naked pictures of boys to another diplomat using the embassy mail bag.

After leaving the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Scoble began a business career in Southeast Asia, eventually founding Spice Trade Travel, a gay and lesbian-targeted tour agency.

Scoble resigned from Spice Trade Travel after his arrest in an effort to, as his Thai lawyer told The Age, spare his company from any further embarrassment.

According to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Channel in July, Scoble might be only the first of many arrests in connection with a pedophile ring operating within the Australian government, which was known about for almost 20 years, said several Australian Federal Police at the Thailand immigration offices the day Scoble was arrested.

“I think that we’re really only skimming the top of the iceberg,” Bernadette McMenamin, national director of children's protection organization Child Wise, told the ABC.

In 1995, then-Liberal Australian parliament member Ken Aldred made a speech to the House listing several diplomats suspected of dealing in child pornography.

Within months, Foreign Affairs Department Asia Specialist Alastair Gaisford began compiling and investigating a list of 20 names, which he whittled down to 12 before sending it off to the Australian Federal Police, who only launched one case into the matter.

The Foreign Affairs Department then engaged in a five-year legal battle with Gaisford in an attempt to fire him.

“When you have a department that prefers to employ child molesters and would sooner spend millions of dollars trying to sack those trying to do something about it, it speaks for itself, surely,” Gainsford told the ABC.