- Australia is investigating Novak Djokovic over a false statement on a form he submitted before arrival.
- Djokovic said he hadn’t travelled in the two weeks before going to Australia. This was incorrect.
- Giving false information to the Australian government holds a maximum penalty of a year in prison.
Novak Djokovic could face up to a year in prison in a worst case scenario if he is found by Australian border forces to have provided false information on a travel declaration form he submitted as part of his entry to the country.
The Serbian admitted on Wednesday that he submitted inaccurate information on the form, which he says was filled in by his agent on his behalf before entering Australia.
Djokovic confirmed on the form that he had not travelled or would not travel in the 14 days prior to his flight to Australia on January 4. Social media posts have since emerged placing him in Belgrade on December 25 and then in southern Spain on December 31.
“My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia,” he said in a statement posted to Instagram.
“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.”
On the forms Djokovic filled in prior to his flight to Melbourne, there is a declaration which warns people that providing false information carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison.
“Giving false or misleading information to the Australian Government is a serious offence. If convicted, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 12 months,” the Australian government’s travel declaration website states.
An investigation by the Australian Border Force as to whether Djokovic misled authorities about his movements before he flew to Australia is ongoing.
While it seems unlikely that Djokovic will actually face a custodial sentence, it remains an option. More likely, however, is that he will have his visa cancelled for a second time and be deported from Australia.
Alex Hawke, Australia’s minister for immigration and migrant services, could cancel Djokovic’s visa for a second time if he is found guilty.
Hawke has been mulling the decision since Djokovic’s visa was reinstated Monday, and a spokesperson said Wednesday that he still needs more time.
“Mr Djokovic’s lawyers have recently provided lengthy further submissions and supporting documentation said to be relevant to the possible cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa,” the spokesperson said, per News.com.au.
“Naturally, this will affect the time frame for a decision.”
Djokovic could also face prison in his Serbia
On top of admitting he had provided false information on his travel declaration form, Djokovic also acknowledged Wednesday that he had attended a media event in Belgrade on December 18 just two days after having tested positive for COVID-19.
“I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” he said in his Instagram statement.
“While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of Judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.”
Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, commented on the 34-year-old’s actions last month in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, just prior to Djokovic’s statement.
“There are some standards that have to be met, in this case it seems to me that if he was aware of [the positive COVID test] then it is a clear violation of the rules,” she said.
Asked about potential sanctions for the tennis star, she said: “I will have to see with the relevant authorities and the medical people who are in charge of implementing these regulations.”
According to Article 248 of the Criminal Code of Republic of Serbia, “failure to comply with health measures during an epidemic of dangerous contagious disease designed to suppress or prevent the disease” carries a maximum punishment of three years in prison.