Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia iStock

There is talk that neo-Nazis may have infiltrated the Australian military after it was reported that a man whose passport was cancelled last year after he was accused by the government of ties to extremism was a former Australian soldier.

The passport of Conor Sretenovic, 28, was cancelled by the federal government after the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) concluded he had the potential to be a national security risk if allowed to travel overseas to fight in a foreign conflict, The Age reported.

Sretenovic served in the Australian Defense Force starting in 2016 for approximately 18 months before allegedly becoming involved with Australia’s white supremacist movement, as evidenced by his leaked communications, according to Australian media reports.

Foreign Minister Maris Payne withdrew Sretenovic’s passport in January 2020 on the grounds that he was about to travel to Ukraine to fight with the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion.

An investigation by several leading Australian news outlets, including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes, found multiple instances of former soldiers joining or considering joining neo-Nazi groups.

The report pointed out that Tom Sewell, a notorious neo-Nazi leader from the state of Victoria, who founded the National Socialist Network in 2019, is a former soldier who served in an infantry unit.

Soldiers in the Australian military have also been caught with neo-Nazi symbols while deployed in Afghanistan. Examples include a soldier who was found to have dressed in a Ku Klux Klan uniform and another soldier who had placed a swastika flag on his armored vehicle before being ordered to remove it.

The ASIO said that it was closely monitoring the situation in cooperation with the military to prevent the accidental training of neo-Nazis.

ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess admitted that it was impossible to catch recruits who concealed their views.

“They can mask that, carry through, get well-trained. And when they leave, they’re improved. And that is a concern if they then use that to train others or go to acts of violence themselves,” Burgess said.