Australian PM says cabinet minister accused of rape 'vigorously' denies allegation

FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives at Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan, November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday an unidentified cabinet minister accused of rape has "vigorously rejected" the allegation during talks with him.

Several opposition lawmakers said late last week they received a letter detailing an allegation of rape by a male cabinet minister before he entered parliament.

Morrison said his office also received a letter detailing the allegation.

Australia's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said earlier on Monday the alleged crime had been referred to Australian Federal Police for a fresh investigation. A previous investigation by New South Wales police was suspended after the alleged victim committed suicide last year.

According to the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the rape happened in Sydney in 1988.

"The individual involved here has vigorously rejected these allegations. And so, it's a matter for the police," Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

Australian Federal Police confirmed they had received the complaint but declined any further comment.

Morrison said the minister would keep his cabinet position, pending the outcome of the police investigation.

Opposition lawmakers have called on Morrison to suspend the minister pending an investigation.

The allegation comes as Morrison's government is under public pressure after three former staff members of his ruling Liberal party said they had been raped by an unidentified colleague.

One victim who went public with her allegations has made an official police complaint.

(Reporting by Colin Packham, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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