Third nation investigates Novak over vax scandal

Publish Date
Thu, 13 Jan 2022, 10:32am
(Photo / File)
(Photo / File)

Third nation investigates Novak over vax scandal

Publish Date
Thu, 13 Jan 2022, 10:32am

All eyes are on Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke as he weighs up whether to kick Novak Djokovic out of Australia. 

The decision to cancel Djokovic's visa last week was overturned in the Federal Circuit Court on Monday but the Minister still has the final say on whether the tennis star is allowed to stay in the country. 

After Judge Anthony Kelly handed down his verdict the federal government said it was still considering cancelling Djokovic's visa, saying it had the power to do so despite the court's ruling. 

Government lawyer Christopher Tran had flagged with the court the Immigration Minister could consider whether to exercise "the personal power of cancellation" — which could mean Djokovic would be unable to return to Australia for three years. 

Report: Novak under fresh investigation 

Fresh reports emerged on Thursday claiming Spanish authorities are investigating Djokovic over his arrival into the country. 

The tennis star said his agent incorrectly ticked "no" on a form asking if he had travelled in the 14 days before leaving for Australia, when in fact he had gone from Serbia to Spain in that time, where he practised ahead of the year's first grand slam. 

Spanish publication COPE reports agencies are looking into whether he entered the country illegally. 

Tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg revealed Spains's policy stipulates "unvaccinated tourists" are not allowed to enter the country and he'd need to prove his work was "essential" to get in. 

Fellow tennis reporter Gaspar Ribeiro Lanca tweeted: "Breaking news: COPE reports that the Spanish Government is now investigating whether unvaccinated Novak Djokovic entered the country illegally in late December. 

"Since September 20, citizens from Serbia need a vaccine certificate OR a special exemption to enter Spanish territory but so far the authorities say they did not receive any request from Djokovic." 

It means Djokovic is under investigation by three countries: Australia, Serbia and Spain. Serbia is investigating whether he broke rules around Covid isolation after he admitted to attending an interview and photo shoot even after testing positive. 

In late December and early January the Soto Tennis Academy, based in Sotogrande in Spain, uploaded several videos to its official Twitter page showing Djokovic was practising there. 

On January 4, the Tennis Head website reported: "Djokovic is still training in Marbella, Spain on the same surface and with the official balls for the Australian Open." 

Marbella is about a 45-minute drive from Sotogrande. 

Djokovic may be OK if he is considered a resident of Spain. Djokovic bought a house in Marbella, on the south coast of Spain, in 2020, reportedly making the move from his previous base in Monte Carlo on the French Riviera. 

Decision to be made after Novak's huge admission 

Journalist turned radio broadcaster Neil Breen believes Mr Hawke will cancel Djokovic's visa — sparking yet another legal challenge. 

"There is word the Govt will cancel Novak Djokovic's visa today - and that will lead to this scenario. His legal team will file an injunction, which will be heard tomorrow. Djokovic will be drawn to play in Oz Open as top seed," Breen tweeted. 

"Injunction will be granted - case heard next week. 

"He will then play, meaning he could be thrown out mid-tournament if court upholds Minister's decision. Fun times ahead." 

Political journalist Paul Bongiorno reports Mr Hawke will kick Djokovic out. 

"I am hearing @AlexHawkeMP will boot out the Joker tomorrow," Bongiorno tweeted on Wednesday night. 

Djokovic released a statement on Instagram on Wednesday, admitting he knowingly attended an interview and photo-shoot with French newspaper L'Equipe while Covid-positive. His reasoning for going ahead with the 33-minute engagement was because he "didn't want to let the journalist down", calling it an "error of judgment". 

"I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment," he wrote. 

Djokovic also admitted to incorrectly filling out his Australian Travel Declaration form when he ticked a box saying he had not travelled in the 14 days before flying to Australia, despite proof he had gone from Serbia to Spain in the two weeks before departing for Melbourne. 

However, the world No. 1 said his agent filled the form out for him. "This was a human error and certainly not deliberate," Djokovic said. 

Mum leaps to Novak's defence 

Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, received a medical exemption to compete in the year's first grand slam but when he touched down in Melbourne last week, was told by the Australian Border Force he had insufficient evidence to prove his exemption was justified. 

Djokovic was kept in a Melbourne hotel until the end of Monday's hearing, when he was released from detention. 

Djokovic's exemption was based on his and Tennis Australia's belief that having contracted Covid-19 in the past six months was a valid reason to not be vaccinated. 

Appearing on Sunrise on Thursday, Djokovic's mother Dijana addressed her son's unwillingness to be vaccinated. 

"Novak is 34-35, even me as a mother I don't have any choice to make pressure on him," she said. 

"He has his own philosophy of his life. If he thinks like that, I can just say OK. 

"I know that Novak is the most healthiest guy in the world, like a sportsman. He takes care of his life and his body so much that nobody can even imagine how. He's so dedicated to this sport and dedicated to what he's doing. He's playing tennis and he wants to stay on the court and I know he is doing everything to take care of his body to stay healthy. 

"I don't know what is the problem if he doesn't want to get vaccinated. That's his choice and each person in this world has the opportunity to make a choice. This is like human rights. You cannot pursue him or pressure him to do this." 

Djokovic's family thanked fans for their support and defended his right to be in Australia when they fronted reporters at a press conference in Belgrade earlier this week. 

"Thank you to people all over the world, people have risen in defence of Novak, we have seen the footage in front of the detention centre," his brother Djordje said. 

"Novak is free, he practised on the courts. He went there to chase another title, with the best possible intent and all the documentation. 

"Novak has been labelled many times, but all he stands for is freedom of choice. The justice has been done. 

"Truth and justice came to the light. I would like to thank the justice system of Australia."