The Latest NSW Corruption Inquiry Is Another Huge Headache For The Liberal State Government

Former NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher resigned in December after ICAC raided his office.

New South Wales MPs are again facing a potentially damaging corruption inquiry this week.

The state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption is alleging more than $400,000 in political donations were corruptly sought, received or hidden.

Launching its hearing today, the ICAC’s Operation Spicer is investigating allegations members of parliament including former NSW Energy and Resources Minister Chris Hartcher, failed to disclose political donations from companies, including those on the prohibited list.

The ICAC is alleging the non-disclosure is an abuse of rules laid down in the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981.

Hartcher, who has maintained his innocence, resigned from his ministerial portfolio in December after the ICAC raided his office in relation to this investigation.

“This inquiry will expose the systematic subversion of the electoral funding laws of NSW,” Counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson, SC, said today.

The ICAC today heard a portion of the $400,000 in illegal political donations was also laundered through a legal firm.

Today NSW Premier Mike Baird has requested Liberal MP Marie Ficarra step down from her position as parliamentary secretary after the inquiry heard she took a prohibited $5000 donation from property developer Tony Merhi. Property developers are banned from making political donations.

A spokesperson for Ficarra denies the allegations and maintains her name will be cleared.

Also embroiled in this inquiry is former liberal staffer Tim Koelma who’s consulting company Eightbyfive allegedly solicited political donations in return for favours from Hartcher.

The Inquiry today heard former mining mogul Nathan Tinkler paid $66,000 through his Buildev Group, Australian Water Holdings (which was at the centre of the Operation Credo inquiry which caused the government major headaches and saw former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell resign over a bottle of wine) paid $137,00, and development company Gazcorp paid $137,000 for services purportedly provided by Eightbyfive.

The Spicer inquiry is also expected to reveal information which could involve Police Minister Michael Gallacher and current NSW Energy Minister Anthony Roberts.

Tinkler is expected to take the stand later this week.

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