After a lengthy criminal investigation, Victoria Police have confirmed that they will not be laying charges related to the 2019 I Cook Foods closure which resulted in 41 people losing their jobs.
Ian Cook, the company’s founder, has publicly attacked the decision.
“When will this government and the [Victorian] police force stop lying to the Victorian people? Crimes happened,” Mr Cook told the Herald Sun.
“It will all come out eventually,” he added. “People just need to come clean now. Victoria Police have taken a public position. I wish them luck in defending that position in the future. If you think [Nikola] Gobbo made Victoria Police look stupid, you haven’t seen anything yet.”
The establishment’s operators accused a City of Greater Dandenong Environmental Health Officer of dropping a slug on the kitchen floor during an inspection, the subsequent discovery of which added to the closure. There were also accusations of evidence tampering found through body-cam footage.
Nicknamed ‘Slug Gate’ (on account of the slug), the investigation turned into a nightmare for Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton. It was alleged by Mr Cook that Sutton wrongly ordered I Cook Foods to be shut down after an elderly woman sadly did while at Knox Private Hospital. I Cook Foods is listed as one of their caters.
I Cook Foods, established in 1985, used to provide 25,000 meals a week servicing the charitable sector for aged care and hospitals. Mr Cook has maintained that he believes the closure of his business was related to the creation of competing business Community Chef set up in 2009 by government figures – including the then Minister for Health Daniel Andrews. The business in question went on to lose tens of millions in taxpayer dollars competing with companies like I Cook Foods.
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton ordered a review of the initial probe in 2021 which started a second investigation. The subsequent investigation, which was closed today, was begun due to detective Sergeant Ash Penry having found that ‘a level of corruption, misuse of office, and a malicious prosecution were involved in this matter’.
“As part of the investigation, police obtained additional witness statements, executed four search warrants, seized emails, images and records, forensically examined items, sought expert advice from an entomologist, and interviewed one person of interest,” said a spokeswoman for Victoria Police.
I Cook Foods will now pursue civil action against the Victorian state government and the City of Greater Dandenong.