Australia

Former mayor grilled on $600k suitcase handover to developer

A former Victorian mayor accused of dealing with a developer at the centre of a corruption probe maintains there was no agreement between the pair despite a money trail linking the two. The former Casey mayor Sam Aziz was quizzed on Thursday at an Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission hearing on a $600,000 in a suitcase…

A former Victorian mayor accused of dealing with a developer at the centre of a corruption probe maintains there was no agreement between the pair despite a money trail linking the two.

The former Casey mayor Sam Aziz was quizzed on Thursday at an Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission hearing on a $600,000 in a suitcase which he handed over to developer John Woodman during a meeting at the Sandhurst Golf Club in 2018.

Counsel assisting Michael Tovey put it to Mr Aziz that he handed the suitcase of money over to Mr Woodman to hide funds from his wife and the family court.

“If you put this in context Mr Woodman puts himself in jeopardy by, from his perspective, assisting you to hide funds from your wife and the family court which could have involved him in a perversion of the course of justice,” Mr Tovey said.

“What was there between you which would have led him to take such a risk in respect of accepting the $600k from you?”

Mr Aziz replied: “There was nothing between us but somewhat of a friendship at that stage”.

He also said he was “not holding anything” over Mr Woodman, despite the businessman “putting himself in jeopardy” by accepting that money.

“I wasn’t holding anything over him, I was not blackmailing him,” he said.

When asked if Mr Woodman ever discussed any concerns about an association of the “commercial transaction” between the pair, Mr Aziz said no discussions had taken place.

“Why does something that’s only going to put himself in a position where he might be subject to criticism and allegations and where there was no commercial advantage to him – why do you think he’d do that for you?” Mr Tovey probed.

Mr Aziz said Mr Woodman “may have wanted to help me out because of the state of distress I was in”.

Mr Tovey said Mr Woodman had “indicated he was never comfortable with this” because of the link to Mr Aziz’s name and the “possibility of people making allegations of an inappropriate relationship”.

“But he only involved himself in it because you were insisting on it and because you were a councillor,” Mr Tovey said.

But Mr Aziz rejected the line of questioning, claiming that was “absolutely not true”.

“He is not shy of saying no to people as I have discovered later,” he said.

IBAC had previously heard Mr Aziz proposed to Mr Woodman to buy his Berwick home for $750,000, which was saddled with $490,000 in mortgage debt, and he’d buy it back at a later time for a nominal fee.

But Mr Aziz claimed on Thursday Mr Woodman was “never going to be that he would just give me the house back”.

“I would have to borrow money … to take the house back off him and I’d have to pay him the stamp duty cost he incurred as well.”

The hearings are part of an IBAC investigation into allegations of corrupt conduct involving councillors and property developers in the City of Casey.

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