Novak Djokovic could face five years in prison if found to have lied about his positive Covid test to Australia authorities.
Djokovic said in a sworn affidavit to the Federal Circuit Court that he was diagnosed with coronavirus on 16 December. “On 16 December 2021, I was tested and diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 (Covid),” he said. The judge eventually ruled that Djokovic should not have his visa revoked and should be allowed to stay in Australia to play tennis.
However, in a statement posted on social media earlier on Wednesday, Djokovic claimed to have been aware of his positive Covid result only on 17 December, not the 16th, which he says explains why he went to public events on the 16th.
The punishment for misleading information to court is a custodial sentence of up to five years.
Djokovic was pictured practising on Wednesday ahead of the tournament, which begins on Monday 17 January. He is predicted to get a “hostile” welcome from both the crowd and some of his colleagues in the dressing room over the coming fortnight as the 34-year-old chases a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title, and a 10th in Melbourne.
However, there is still a possibility he is sent home. Djokovic’s fate will be decided by immigration minister Alex Hawke, who can personally intervene and decide to cancel his visa, which would see the world No1 banned from Australia for three years. A decision is expected on Thursday.
Separately, Border Force officials are set to ask Djokovic more questions around his entry to Australia and this time it will be focused on travel before arrival. Djokovic said he had not travelled anywhere before getting to Melbourne but footage has emerged showing him in Spain.
On his ATD form, which was presented in court by Djokovic’s legal team, the answer “No” was selected under the question: “Have you travelled, or will you travel, in the 14 days prior to your flight to Australia?”
Under the question there is a note that states: “Giving false or misleading information is a serious offence. You may also be liable to a civil penalty for giving false or misleading information.”
In his statement on social media, Djokovic blamed the “administrative mistake” on his agent.
“On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf – as I told immigration officials on my arrival – and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia,” Djokovic said.
“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur.”
Additional reporting by agency
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