NSW public officials and members of Parliament - allegations concerning soliciting, receiving and concealing payments (Operation Spicer)

Year: 2016 Status: Completed

The ICAC investigated allegations that, during the lead up to the 2011 NSW state election, certain NSW Liberal Party candidates and others solicited and received political donations which were not declared as required by the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981. The allegations included that some of these political donations were made by and received from prohibited donors (property developers) and some exceeded the applicable caps on political donations. The Commission also examined whether in the lead up to the 2011 NSW state election members or associates of the NSW Liberal Party used, or attempted to use, the Free Enterprise Foundation as a means of disguising the true identity of donors and evading the prohibition on receiving political donations from property developers.

Further, the Commission examined whether certain members of Parliament used, or attempted to use, their power and influence to improperly benefit Buildev Pty Ltd in respect of a proposed development of a coal terminal at the Port of Newcastle.

In its report on the investigation, released on 30 August 2016, the Commission makes findings of fact against various individuals, one finding of serious corrupt conduct against Joseph Tripodi, and is of the opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should be obtained with respect to the prosecution of seven individuals for various offences.

As there are common elements to this investigation and Operation Credo, the evidence taken in each operation is taken as evidence in both operations. The Operation Credo report was made public on 3 August 2017.

Findings of corrupt conduct

The Commission makes a finding of serious corrupt conduct against Joseph Tripodi for, sometime prior to 16 February 2011, misusing his position as a member of Parliament to improperly provide an advantage to Buildev by providing to Darren Williams of that company a copy of the confidential 4 February 2011 NSW Treasury report, Review of Proposed Uses of Mayfield and Intertrade Lands at Newcastle Port.

Recommendations for prosecutions

The Commission must seek the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on whether any prosecution should be commenced. The DPP determines whether any criminal charges can be laid, and conducts all prosecutions. The Commission provides information on this website in relation to the status of prosecution recommendations and outcomes as advised by the DPP. The progress of matters is generally within the hands of the DPP. Accordingly, the Commission does not directly notify persons affected of advice received from the DPP or the progress of their matters generally.

The ICAC is of the opinion that the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should be obtained with respect to the prosecution of the following persons:

  • Samantha Brooks for offences of giving false or misleading evidence contrary to section 87 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, namely that she received the Rex Newell painting known as Perrin’s Boat Shed for her birthday in 2010, and that Andrew Cornwell gave the Rex Newell painting known as Perrin’s Boat Shed to Hilton Grugeon as a Christmas gift in return for which Mr Grugeon paid her $10,120
  • Andrew Cornwell for offences of giving false or misleading evidence contrary to section 87 of the ICAC Act 1988, namely that in December 2010 he gave the painting know as Perrin’s Boat Shed to Hilton Grugeon as a Christmas present, and that Mr Grugeon subsequently contacted him and offered to buy the painting from Samantha Brooks for the sum of $10,120
  • Timothy Gunasinghe for the offence of giving false or misleading evidence contrary to section 87 of the ICAC Act, namely that on 16 December 2010 he made out a cheque to the Free Enterprise Foundation believing that the Free Enterprise Foundation was a political lobby group
  • William Saddington for the offence of giving false or misleading evidence contrary to section 87 of the ICAC Act, namely that Joshua Hodges told Mr Saddington that he was establishing a consultancy firm, and that as a result of that conversation Mr Saddington gave Mr Hodges $4000 for the purpose of promoting Mr Hodges’ consultancy firm
  • Timothy Koelma for offences of giving false or misleading evidence contrary to section 87 of the ICAC Act, namely that he provided a service to Matthew Lusted of LA Commercial Pty Ltd in return for the payment of $5000, that he provided a service to Iwan Sunito of Crown Consortium Pty Ltd in return for the payment of $2,200, and that he provided advice to Eric Stammer and Scott Johnson of Yeramba Estates Pty Ltd in return for the payment of $5000
  • Christopher Hartcher for the offence of larceny, with respect to $4000 withdrawn from the accounts of the company known as Mickey Tech, those funds being intended as a donation to the NSW Liberal Party
  • Joseph Tripodi for the offence of misconduct  in public office, with respect to the provision of a confidential Treasury report to representatives of the private corporation Buildev Group Pty Ltd, without lawful authority to do so.

Briefs of evidence were provided to the DPP on 20 February 2017.

On 5 December 2017, the DPP advised that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Samantha Brooks. The Commission has accepted that advice.

On 23 October 2018, the DPP advised that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Andrew Cornwell or Timothy Gunasinghe. The Commission has accepted that advice.

The Commission is awaiting the DPP's decision on whether proceedings will be taken in relation to the other persons referred to above.

Recommendations for disciplinary action

There are no recommendations for disciplinary action in this report.

Recommendations for corruption prevention

The Commission’s investigation uncovered conduct indicative of significant failures to comply with election funding laws concerning the disclosure of political donations, the prohibition on property developers making political donations and the caps placed on political donations.

At the time of the investigation, NSW had some of the most restrictive political donation and election expenditure rules of any jurisdiction, but those rules by themselves were demonstrated by the investigation as insufficient to make regulation effective. If the framework of enforcement, scrutiny by civil society, incentives and penalties does not support compliance with the rules, then rules alone will be ineffective.

Some of the weaknesses in the system uncovered by the investigation were remedied by the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Amendment Act 2014. This Act amended the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 by increasing maximum penalties for summary offences relating to political donations and electoral expenditure. The limitation period for commencing proceedings for summary offences was also increased. Importantly, limits on political donations have meant that third-party campaigners and branches of political parties operating in other jurisdictions are no longer an effective conduit for circumventing NSW donation laws. In addition, a new separate indictable offence was created relating to schemes to circumvent the donation or expenditure prohibitions or restrictions. For serious matters, a member of Parliament may now, if convicted, lose their seat.

Despite these welcome changes, there remained flaws in the regulatory framework which, in the Commission’s opinion, continued to fall short of an effective system.

In December 2014, the Commission published its report, Election funding, expenditure and disclosure in NSW: Strengthening accountability and transparency. In that report, the Commission made 22 recommendations affecting electoral funding, disclosure, election expenditure and political party registration operations at both the macro and micro levels in the context of NSW state elections. The report was distributed to NSW Parliament as well as the Political Donations Panel of Experts, a panel of specialists assembled by the NSW Government to assess potential reforms to election funding laws, led by Dr Kerry Schott.

After the Commission’s report was released, the Political Donations Panel of Experts released their final report to the governor and premier. The report contained a set of 50 recommendations for reform to NSW election laws, traversing a range of issues, including restrictions on political donations and expenditure, public funding, party governance, regulation of third-party campaigners, disclosure requirements and enforcement. The 50 recommendations provided by the expert panel aligned closely with the recommendations submitted in the Commission’s December 2014 report.

Media Releases

Prohibited donations, fund channelling and non-disclosures exposed in NSW Liberal Party 2011 state election campaign

30 Aug 2016

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Operation Spicer investigation has exposed prohibited donations, fund channelling and non-disclosures in the NSW Liberal Party’s 2011 state election campaign.

MEDIA ALERT: Operation Spicer public inquiry resumes this Wednesday

4 Aug 2014

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption's (ICAC) Operation Spicer public inquiry will resume this Wednesday 6 August 2014 at 10.00 am.

Operation Spicer public inquiry resumes Wednesday 6 August 2014

28 Jul 2014

This segment of the public inquiry will focus on corruption allegations involving the circumstances in which the 2011 state election campaign for the seat of Newcastle was funded by the Liberal Party, and whether funds were solicited and received from prohibited donors, including Buildev Pty Ltd, Nathan Tinkler, Jeff McCloy, Hilton Grugeon and other persons and companies associated with them.

MEDIA ALERT: Public inquiry into allegations concerning soliciting, receiving and concealing payments (Operation Spicer) starts Monday

24 Apr 2014

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)'s public inquiry into allegations that certain members of parliament and others corruptly solicited, received and concealed payments from various sources in return for certain members of parliament and others favouring the interests of those responsible for the payments (Operation Spicer) will commence next Monday 28 April 2014 at 11:00 am.

Witness

As there are common elements to this investigation and Operation Credo, the evidence taken in each operation is taken as evidence in both operations.

Download the Witness List (PDF)

Transcripts

View all transcripts associated with this investigation. The Commission makes every effort to post the daily transcripts of its public inquiries on its website by 8:00 pm each day when possible. If the Commission sits later than 4:00 pm, the daily transcripts, particularly the afternoon session, may not be available until the next working day.

As there are common elements to this investigation and Operation Credo, the evidence taken in each operation is taken as evidence in both operations.

No Documents found.
Exhibits

As there were common elements to this investigation and Operation Credo, the evidence taken in each operation was taken as evidence in both operations.

Spicer and Credo Exhibit List (PDF)

Download exhibits associated with these investigations below.

Public notices