Former NSW mining minister Chris Hartcher used his old law firm Hartcher Reid to “wash” $4000 in bank cheques that had been made out to the NSW Liberal Party.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption has heard that, in March, 2011, Timothy Trumbull, “an avidly anti-socialist accountant”, had already reached the $5000 cap for individual donors, so he used staff members to write three bank cheques totalling $4000 made out to the NSW Liberal Party.
It is alleged Mr Hartcher waited nine months before depositing the cheques. The then resources minister is believed to have gone to Westpac Bank in Martin Place on November 17, 2011, to deposit the cheques into his old firm Hartcher Reid’s trust account.
Mr Hartcher’s nephew, Sebastian Reid, a solicitor at the firm, told the commission he received instructions from Mr Hartcher to withdraw the money from the trust account and to deposit it into an account attached to Micky Tech and to say it was for IT services.
During cross-examination by Mr Hartcher's barrister, Alister Henskens, SC, Mr Reid admitted he did not make a note of any conversation with Mr Hartcher.
But he said his uncle was the only person he spoke to about the payments, and said he was deducing from other documents on the file that the instructions came from him.
At the conclusion of his evidence, Mr Reid, who was not accused of any impropriety, dashed down the fire escape and was last seen disappearing through the staff entrance of David Jones menswear store in Castlereagh Street, Sydney.
The commission heard Micky Tech was set up by Ekarin Sriwattanaporn, the partner of Mr Hartcher's former electorate officer Ray Carter.
"Did it ever do any work, did it ever get any business?" counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, asked.
"No," said Mr Ekarin, who gave evidence through a Thai translator. Documents tendered at the inquiry show the $4000 that went into Micky Tech from Hartcher Reid’s trust account was withdrawn on December 1, 2011. The laundered $4000 was withdrawn in 300 $100 notes and the rest in $50s.
Mr Ekarin said the $4000 had all been spent. He denied the suggestion by Mr Carter’s barrister that the money had been used by Mr Carter to buy food for campaign staff.
Undischarged bankrupt Pat Sergi, who was named at the Woodward royal commission in connection with Robert Trimbole's Griffith drug syndicate, has also given evidence about donations to Micky Tech.
Mr Sergi said he knew Mr Hartcher and Mr Carter from his property developing endeavours in Terrigal.
Mr Sergi said that, just before the March 2011 state election, Mr Carter rang seeking donations.
Mr Sergi organised for his relative Roy Sergi, who has a concreting company, and builder Angelo Maggiotto to meet Mr Carter. Both men donated $2000, which they understood was going to Mr Hartcher. But Mr Maggiotto told the inquiry that, when he asked for a receipt, he received one from Micky Tech.
Mr Maggiotto subsequently arranged for a letter to be sent to Mr Hartcher thanking him “for his assistance” with the Planning Department over his East Leppington development. The property developer said his donation had nothing to do with Mr Hartcher’s assistance.
Mr Erakin agreed a $2000 invoice for "information technology consulting" issued by him to Mr Maggiotto's MBC Group in March 2011 was not a true invoice but "my partner asked me to do it".
He also agreed a separate invoice for $2000 sent to property developer Roy Sergi's concreting business did not relate to any work done by Micky Tech.
Geoffrey Watson, SC, counsel assisting the ICAC, has explained that "Operation Spicer is mainly concerned with political fund-raising in the Liberal Party and the way in which unscrupulous businessmen sought to buy political influence".
The story Chris Hartcher laundered party donations through his old law firm, ICAC told first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.