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Australian Ex-Parliament Speaker Summoned on Fraud Claims

Australia’s former Parliamentary Speaker Peter Slipper has been ordered to appear in court next month in relation to three fraud charges, federal police said.

He has been ordered to appear in Canberra Magistrates Court on Feb. 15, in relation to three offenses of “dishonestly causing a risk of a loss to the Commonwealth,” the Australian Federal Police said in a statement today on its website.

Slipper was initially accused by a former aide of misusing taxpayer-funded travel vouchers as part of a sexual harassment complaint that was thrown out by a judge last month. There was no answer at Slipper’s office at Parliament House and the former speaker didn’t immediately answer an e-mailed request for comment on the summonses.

Slipper resigned from the speaker’s post in October after text messages containing crude comments about women were made public during the sexual harassment claim proceedings. The matter has proved a distraction for Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s minority government, which has relied on Slipper to boost its numbers in the lower house of parliament.

Formal charges won’t be laid until Slipper appears in court and he will be given an opportunity then to enter a plea, police said.

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