#AceNewsReport – Oct.31: She never made decisions that would favour anyone but the people of New South Wales. She had never suspected that the man with whom she was in a secret relationship had ever engaged in corrupt conduct.
#AceDailyNews says according to Australia News Media on UPDATE on Gladys Berejiklian’s Case at the ICAC as media blitz backfired and she was defiant and utterly unrepentant as she did not recall having any particular interest in a government grant awarded to the Australian Clay Target Association, a project long pursued by her secret partner, the former member for Wagga Wagga, Daryl Maguire listen to the videos on this post and decide for yourselves …..
She did not give any special attention to Mr Maguire’s projects, she said, telling ICAC that he was treated no differently to any other member of her government.
Gladys Berejiklian is a disciplined, practised politician who rarely strays from her talking points. But the witness box in ICAC is a very different beast to the floor of parliament or a TV press conference. There is an art to answering questions in these formats.
At a press conference in August, the then-premier told 7.30 it was a “ridiculous” proposition to suggest that she intervened in a grant assessment.
But that kind of response doesn’t fly at ICAC. The NSW government has empowered the agency to compel witnesses to answer questions. Barristers are sticklers for yes or no responses.
On no less than six occasions, ICAC Commissioner Ruth McColl pulled up Ms Berejiklian for not answering questions, or for drifting off into speech-making.
There was plenty for counsel assisting to rake over. Phone intercept after phone intercept was played, detailing conversations between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire about funding in his electorate. Some were explosive.
A key allegation being explored by ICAC is whether Ms Berejiklian breached public trust by failing to disclose her relationship with Mr Maguire while facilitating the awarding of two grants in his electorate.
In a phone call intercepted less than a month before Mr Maguire’s reputation was shredded at his first ICAC appearance in 2018, Ms Berejiklian casually tells him that she’s secured $170 million in funding for Wagga Base Hospital.
“I’ve just fixed that one,” says Gladys Berejiklian. In the same call, she tells Daryl Maguire she secured the funding “in five minutes” after speaking to then-treasurer, now Premier, Dominic Perrottet.
“I just spoke to Dom and I said put the 140 [million dollars] in the budget.
“He just does what I ask him to.”
When Gladys Berejiklian was asked by counsel assisting whether she would have made a similar intervention for another MP, she replied: “Yes, I’m confident I would have.”
In an intercepted call the previous year, Gladys Berejiklian and Daryl Maguire discuss his pet project to revamp the Riverina Conservatorium of Music. During this phone call, Gladys Berejiklian complains about a government bureaucrat working on the funding proposal.
“I can’t stand that guy,” says the former premier. “His head will be gone soon.”
But Daryl Maguire objects: “Not until he fixes my conservatorium.”
Gladys Berejiklian responds: “Alright, good, tell him to fix it and then after he fixes it, I’m sacking him.”
The most painful questions were about the status of their relationship. It bordered on Shakespearean. For two people who loved each other to be called to a corruption hearing on consecutive days must have been excruciating.
Ms Berejiklian’s barrister did her best to try and stop these questions from being asked in a public hearing, requesting that these matters be canvassed in private.
This was rejected. And in making the case against it, counsel assisting the inquiry Scott Robertson argued that it may be that Ms Berejiklian in some respects exposed herself to at least some of this scrutiny.
When the first sensational revelation emerged that Gladys Berejiklian had been in a close and personal relationship with the former Wagga MP last October, the then-premier embarked on a media blitz.
Splashed across the front page of The Daily Telegraph were the words, “I loved him … but I’ll never speak to him again”. Mr Robertson questioned whether this was consistent with what she had said about the relationship not being of sufficient status to warrant disclosure. He said that this was one of the reasons why he intended to explore the relationship in public hearings now.
At one point, Ms Berejiklian was presented with a text message that she sent Daryl Maguire, telling him: “You are my family.” But under questioning, she maintained that he wasn’t a family member in any sense that would require disclosure. Round and round the inquiry went, into what exactly Ms Berejiklian considered the relationship was and wasn’t.
She said she had doubts about how committed he was. She pointed out that they did not share a bank account and she never introduced him to her family. So the relationship did not need to be disclosed. She said it had never occurred to her that the relationship should be factored in when making funding decisions in his electorate.
Mr Maguire had no such indecision. This week, he told the Commission he loved Ms Berejiklian and that she loved him. They discussed marriage. He had a key to her house.
When asked whether he ever returned Ms Berejiklian’s key, he looked away, pausing for a long moment, before saying he hadn’t. It was a painful moment. Ms Berejiklian went on to say that she had now changed the locks.
There is a purpose to all of this. As Mr Robertson told the inquiry, it goes to the heart of whether Ms Berejiklian breached the high standards set for ministers — standards that she set for herself, as she oversaw the ministerial code when she was premier. According to Mr Robertson, the status of the relationship is crucial in determining whether it warranted disclosure. And if it did, whether it amounted to a breach of the rules.
The former premier said that if she had the chance again, she would still not have disclosed the relationship to her government colleagues.
ICAC does not run trials. Mr Robertson reminded us this week that what ICAC does is investigate: it is charged with holding public hearings in public when it considers the public interest in holding them outweighs the interest of a person’s privacy.
Bodies like ICAC have been described as being part of the fourth branch of government: the integrity branch. Former chief justice of the NSW Supreme Court James Spigelman wrote that the basis for the existence of this branch “is the fundamental necessity to ensure that corruption, in a broad sense of that term, is eliminated from government”.
That function was on full display this week and into the next at these public hearings, as Ms Berejiklian continues her evidence on Monday
#AceDailyNews says according to MailOnline (Australia) Reports; Gladys Berejiklian, leader is regretting Kyle and Jackie O, Ben Fordham interviews, this is despite having changed her door locks after they split up as he had a key that had not been returned.
Gladys Berejiklian breaks her silence as she arrives at ICAC
It comes after a stressed looking former premier arrived for her highly anticipated appearance at the corruption inquiry into her secret love affair with Daryl Maguire.
Ms Berejiklian said that she did not ask Mr Maguire to return the key to her house that she had given him. But she has since changed her locks.
ICAC Assistant Commissioner Ruth McColl, SC, who is presiding over the inquiry, interrupted Ms Berejiklian’s evidence at one point to say: ‘Could I ask you to answer the question and not make speeches?’
Within a minute Ms McColl interrupted again to say ‘Ms Berejiklian, I do not think you are heeding the message I just communicated to you.’
‘I appreciate that. Thank you,’ Ms Berejiklian replied.
When Ms Berejiklian briefly had difficulty with a screen before her, Mr Robertson intervened to fix it. ‘Counsel assisting and IT support apparently,’ he said.
Mr Robertson asked Ms Berejiklian about her understanding of proceedings.
‘Are you having some difficulty with my questions? I am trying to frame them in a precise way as well so you can answer them yes or no.
‘Are you having some difficulty understanding my questions,’ he asked.
Ms Berejiklian replied: ‘Mr Robertson, I’m just concerned that you are skewing the fact that all of my colleagues rightfully deserve my attention and my advocacy and my support for things that mattered in their communities.’
‘Skewing or not, you understand that your role as a witness is to direct yourself to the questions that are being asked, you understand that?’ Mr Robertson responded.
‘Yes, I do,’ she replied.
‘You have senior counsel to represent you who have an opportunity to ask for clarification. You understand that, don’t you?’
‘I do, yes.’
Outside the hearing, Ms Berejiklian said she would tell the Independent Commission Against Corruption she will ‘strenuously stress’ that she has always put the interests and her ‘love and support’ for the people of NSW first.
Her day at ICAC has finally come – after six months of private hearings, two weeks of public hearings and 500 pieces of evidence.
Speaking to the media, she thanked the public ‘for the amazing support’
‘It’s been very very deeply appreciated at a very difficult month. I’m looking forward to fulfilling my obligations and appearing before this inquiry.
‘I will strenuously stress again – as I have every day of my life in public office – my love and support for the people of this great state has always been the forefront of any decisions I’ve made in public life.’
Gladys Berejiklian reveals that the drama has made her more human
Ms Berejiklian said she had not been listening to proceedings at ICAC over the past two weeks.
‘All I will say is my love and passion for everything that is great about New South Wales remains the case. I’ve been buoyed by the public support I’ve seen. Every decision I’ve taken in public life has always been in the public’s best interests, and the interests of the people of this state.’
But she will be regretting having spoken so openly last year about her ‘close personal relationship’ with Daryl Maguire a year ago after she admitted the disgraced MP was her secret boyfriend at a previous Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry.
Shortly after shocking the state with her revelation, the then-NSW Premier seemingly spoke candidly about her doomed love affair with Mr Maguire with 2GB’s Ben Fordham, radio presenters Kyle and Jackie O and Sunday Telegraph gossip columnist Annette Sharp.
The interviews appeared to engender public sympathy for Ms Berejiklian – but they came back to bite her on Thursday when the counsel assisting the ICAC, Scott Robertson, threw them back in her face with devastating results.
On Thursday morning, Ms Berejiklian’s legal team launched a last ditch application to have evidence from Mr Maguire kept private at the corruption inquiry into the former premier.
Sophie Callan, a barrister acting for Ms Berejiklian, told Ms McColl that ‘hallmarks or indications at the level of commitment’ in the relationship with Mr Maguire should not be aired publicly.
ICAC counsel Scott Robertson said the application should be refused. ‘A public inquiry is to be held in public,’ he said.
He added that having a private session would risk it ‘becoming a public inquiry in name only’.
Mr Robertson argued that the hearing should be able to publicly delve into the nature of the relationship between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire because the former premier openly gave interviews to the press after a previous ICAC hearing a year ago about how she planned to marry him.
What Gladys Berejiklian said before outside ICAC on Friday morning
‘Can I just say good morning everybody. Thank you for the amazing support the public has given to me. It’s been very very deeply appreciated at a very difficult month.
‘I’m looking forward to fulfilling my obligations and appearing before this inquiry.
‘I will strenuously stress again – as I have every day of my life in public office – my love and support for the people of this great state has always been the forefront of any decisions I’ve made in public life.
‘I haven’t been listening to proceedings.
‘All I will say is my love and passion for everything that is great about New South Wales remains the case. I’ve been buoyed by the public support I’ve seen.
‘Every decision I’ve taken in public life has always been in the public’s best interests, and the interests of the people of this state.
Ms Berejiklian told the Kyle and Jackie O radio show that while revealing details about her personal relationship had been ‘humiliating and embarrassing’, it had made her feel ‘more human’.
‘I’m actually starting to feel even stronger after it all… It’s made me feel more human and vulnerable than I’ve ever felt before,’ she told the breakfast show hosts.
Responding to Sandilands’ question about whether she had ever ‘dabbled’ in a same sex relationship, Ms Berejiklian said: ‘I haven’t and I didn’t. Not that there is anything wrong with that.’
Sandilands said he understood why she’d want to keep the relationship private, given ‘secret sex is the best sex’, but the premier was hesitant to comment on the intimate details of her former relationship.
Ms Berejiklian told 2GB’s Ben Fordham she lacked experience in intimate relationships after dedicating so much of her life to politics.
‘It’s fair to say that on average I would probably have less experience than the average person, but that’s an excruciating thing to talk about,’ she said.
‘I’ve always been focused on my job and my work and my family and I haven’t really had time for a lot else to be honest…
‘It wasn’t a normal relationship, he wasn’t my boyfriend. I certainly hoped he would be, but it wasn’t sufficiently substantial. I didn’t want to introduce anyone to my close network unless I knew,’ she said.
‘I was certainly in love with him… but no, he wasn’t my boyfriend.’
Ms Berejiklian told the Sunday Telegraph that ‘I’m still trying to process it. I feel like it’s someone else living this … It’s like I’m the main protagonist in a movie. It’s like I’m the feature and the film is going to end and my life is going to go back to normal but it will never be normal again.’
‘It was hard to define because it wasn’t of a sufficient status,’ she says ambiguously. ‘It wasn’t a traditional type of relationship.’
In a general press conference, she said ‘Without question I stuffed up in my personal life and I accept that.
‘It’s very difficult for someone in my position to have a private and personal life and I’m very upset at what has transpired. But I want to make this assurance to the people of New South Wales I have always put the public first.’
She added: ‘I want to state at the outset that had I known then what I know now clearly I would not have made those personal decisions that I did.
‘I trusted someone that I’d known for a long time and I feel really – really let down. I trusted him for a long time.’
There was little ambiguity at ICAC yesterday, when Mr Maguire gave evidence that he and the then premier had discussed getting married and having a child.
Perhaps if Ms Berejiklian had left her words at ICAC speak for themselves and not done media interviews afterwards in an attempt to save her job as NSW premier, the public might not have found out yesterday just how close and personal her relationship with Mr Maguire actually was.
So Gladys Berejiklian is saying she was in a sexual relationship with Daryl Maguire for over 5 years, in love with him, spoke about marriage & children but it was a nothing relationship she didn't rate worth telling anyone while he was getting corrupt commissions #auspol#icacpic.twitter.com/fClmQuV86d
— Kangaroo Court of Australia – Shane Dowling (@Kangaroo_Court) October 29, 2021
#AceNewsReport – July.08: Parked beneath the concrete overpass leading into Melbourne’s Crown Casino, he scans the seedy patch of the city between him and the casino, as the echoes of passing cars ricochet overhead.
AUSTRALIA: Crown Casino’s power concerned these gambling inspectors. Now they’re speaking out and old gaming inspector’s badge sits inside Peter “Macca” McCormack’s wallet. The accompanying photo ID is stamped with faint blue letters: “Retired” according to 4Corners
But old habits die hard ? ….As inspectors, we believed our role was to keep the casino crime-free,” he says.
His eyes dart as he surveys the scenes that play out before him; a group of cleaners bundle out of a visibly unroadworthy car, a momentarily unaccompanied child is reunited with her mother, and a petty thief and regular patron at Crown is spotted passing by in the rear-view mirror.
This is a spot he would come to before he began his shifts at the casino, during his 30-odd years as a senior inspector and team leader for Victoria’s independent gambling watchdog.
“We would walk the gaming floor, we would always be dressed in corporate clothing,” he says.
“All the dealers and the pit bosses, they knew who we were.”
Inspectors work for the regulator and are supposed to have oversight of the casino — one of their most important functions is to keep out criminal influence and infiltration.
While Peter’s eye for detail served him well to observe criminal activity, he says he was told by management it was not their responsibility to act on it.
“I would often see loan sharking, in the gaming pits,” he says.
“We were told, ‘That’s not our problem, that’s a police matter,’ or, ‘It’s Crown’s problem if there’s loan sharking.’
“I had drug deals happen right in front of me, where a little plastic bag of powder and the money’s exchanged right in front of me.
“But again, we were told, ‘No, it’s a police matter, not our matter.’
“A lot of the things that we would report up the chain of any sort of criminal activity, just disappeared into oblivion, we never heard of anything further about it.”
Over the years, inspectors say they lost access to parts of the casino, were shadowed by Crown staff in high-roller rooms, and felt their presence was unwelcome.
“I felt that Crown were running our office. When they wanted things changed, things got changed,” he says.
“We’d be told off by a manager for doing our job, because Crown had complained about what we had been doing on the gaming floor, who we might’ve spoken to, or how we dealt with it.”
Peter is one of five former inspectors now speaking out for the first time.
He says they feared if they told the media what was happening they’d be fined or fired.
“I haven’t got a job to lose anymore, so I’m not worried.” Peter says.
As Crown casino became engulfed by scandals revealing mass money laundering and the pursuit of commercial relationships with a parade of organised crime figures, these men watched on as the dirty secrets they’d been forced to keep unravelled.
They’ve told Four Corners their roles at the casino were constantly undermined as the watchdog they worked for gave Crown what it wanted again and again.
Tick and flick
One of the inspectors on Peter’s team was former Victoria Police officer Danny Lakasas.
Danny says he once ran a 12-month operation to track the use of counterfeit notes at the casino — methodically tracking dates, times and gaming table numbers, as well as who the dealers and patrons were.
He says when he compiled what he’d found and passed it up the chain, nothing happened.
“Somebody from intel came down then, took all the information, said, ‘Thanks very much.’ That was the last I heard of it,” he says.
“You get disheartened after a while, and you start thinking, well, why am I busting my backside in doing all this work when it’s not going to go anywhere and nothing’s going to happen?”
Danny and Peter were employed by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR).
It was formed in 2012 when the then-Liberal state government merged the gaming and liquor authorities – saying it would increase efficiency.
Inspectors on the ground say it created chaos. Budgets and staff numbers were cut by 30 per cent.
Experienced gaming inspectors were routinely called away from the gaming floor to conduct liquor licence checks at cafes, bars and restaurants.
“It was a takeover by liquor, clearly. There seemed to be a directive from above, whether that was at state government level, to focus in on liquor activities,” says Rod Walker, another former Victorian gaming inspector.
Rod says the liquor inspections became “tick and flick events, just so that you could reach your KPIs”.
The inspectors’ reaction to the new policy was visceral.
“Whoever invented the word KPIs, in my opinion, should be shot,” Peter says.
“Morale went down considerably. They weren’t interested in doing proper investigations, it was all tick and flick.
“What I wanted to do was investigate proper crime.”
Peter says there were many shifts where the casino had no inspector at all.
“That’s still happening,” he says.
“It is in the legislation that we must have casino inspectors there all the time.”
As the regulator was undergoing this upheaval, James Packer ramped up Crown’s aggressive expansion into the Chinese high-roller market.
VIP gamblers were brought into Melbourne by third party agents known as junket operators.
To Danny, the casino suddenly became more vulnerable to organised crime.
“What changed then with the junkets coming in was the amount of Chinese people coming in, having their own rooms, and gambling basically millions of dollars,” Danny says.
“What we saw was a lot of money change hands.
“I don’t know where this money came from, or how it was accounted for, or whether the state was receiving their cut of taxes at that time, because it was all mainly cash.”
Opening the door to money laundering
Crown had an ace up its sleeve.
Years earlier, in 2004, the state government had given the casino the power to approve the same junket operators that it would end up making hundreds of millions of dollars from.
The former head of the regulator, Peter Cohen, has told Four Corners it was his idea to hand over the power to Crown.
“The idea at the time was that Crown actually had more resources than we had to undertake due diligence checks. They could engage private investigators,” Mr Cohen says.
The regulator’s job was to audit the process to ensure Crown was adequately assessing the junket operators.
“Like Ronald Reagan would say, ‘Trust, but verify,'” Mr Cohen says.
Barry McGann, who was a gaming inspector from 2007 to 2018, says this was a key moment that opened the door to money laundering.
“For the commission to give up their powers to allow Crown to approve their own junket operations, in my opinion, was a mistake,” Barry says.
The inspectors still had the ability to audit junket operators and the VIP players Crown flew into Melbourne, but the regulator had to rely on the casino to provide accurate and extensive information for any background checks.
“I’d order the report. If there were any players there that [Crown] didn’t want me to see, there was nothing stopping them from wiping them out, or taking it off the database. I’d be none the wiser,” Barry says.
Because of the lack of access to independent information, Barry says “it would be hard to associate [the players] with any illegal play or triads”.
The junket audits were also rarely done.
From late 2013, audits stopped for close to a year, until a Four Corners program exposed that Crown Melbourne was dealing with junket operators linked to criminal syndicates.
After the story ran, Danny Lakasas says he received a panicked phone call from management asking to see the latest junket audit.
“I said, ‘Well, there hasn’t been an audit done for probably six to 12 months.’ When they said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Because we were told not to do any audits, because they were being reviewed.'”
Crown was not only approving these junket operators, some of whom had links to organised crime, but the regulator was doing little to scrutinise the individuals who were coming in and gambling hundreds of millions of dollars in the casino’s private rooms.
The one ‘banned’ high roller
Terry McCabe understands better than most how the fear of punishment can be a strong motivating force for compliance.
Before becoming a gaming inspector in 2004 he was a senior detective in Victoria Police’s Arson Squad.
“For a regulator to be completely effective, there needs to be a climate of likely being caught out, likely being exposed. [While I was there] I’m not sure that that risk really existed,” Terry says.
Crown pays the Victorian government over $200 million a year in taxes, and Terry believes this ends up influencing how the state-based regulator operates.
“Governments all around the world are addicted to gambling as much as many patrons are, and regulation of a casino is extremely difficult against that background.”
Terry noticed the growing frustration amongst inspectors who felt they were not able to properly hold Crown to account.
“The troops worked hard. Many of the troops were among the original casino inspectorate and had done a lot of great work, but it didn’t come as any surprise that, when that good work was done, it would amount to very little.”
“The disappointment became disenchantment and disenchantment became, not disinterest, but, ‘Here we go again.'”
Short of cancelling a casino’s licence, one of the strongest powers at the regulator’s disposal is the ability to force the casino to cease a relationship with one of its players or junket operators.
The VCGLR has only used this power once, despite a series of connections that have been identified between junket operators and organised crime syndicates.
The one case where the regulator used this power was with high-roller Richard Yong, who was convicted of illegal bookmaking after an undercover FBI sting at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in 2014.
But Four Corners has revealed that after the regulator twice wrote to Crown ordering it to cease dealing with Yong, the casino resisted and continued to deal with him.
The regulator also had concerns about one of Yong’s close associates who was also a VIP client at Crown, Paul Phua – a well-known Malaysian poker player and unregulated bookmaker. He is also alleged to be a high-ranking member of the 14K triad.
The regulator dropped its pursuit of Phua, claiming it had “insufficient evidence” to order Crown to cease dealing with him.
In 2016, Four Corners revealed that Victoria Police had serious concerns about Phua’s alleged links to triads and his status as a Crown VIP.
Terry McCabe is not familiar with either case, but says the casino had a reputation for pushing back against the VCGLR.
“I think Crown had a very robust legal department who were very strong and very aggressive in the way they dealt with the regulator.”
“I don’t believe in all instances we were as strong back.”
A big blue bag of cash
In 2019, frustration inside the regulator reached a tipping point.
Two whistleblowers contacted the office of independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie with evidence of suspected money laundering at Crown Melbourne.
One unnamed inspector provided footage of a young man with a cooler bag full of cash exchanging it for chips inside a room run exclusively by the junket operator Suncity.
“[The chips] shortly thereafter were cashed in — a very easy, quick and effective way to launder millions of dollars,” Mr Wilkie says.
“Importantly, that inspector came to me after he had tried to send that footage up the chain within the regulator and it was not acted on.”
The regulator identified the man in the vision as Chenkang Pan, a junket representative and premium player at Crown Melbourne.
While the watchdog wanted him banned, the casino refused to accept it was him because his face was blurred in the leaked video.
Crown had a copy of Pan’s photo ID and access to the dates he was in the Suncity room, but still said it wasn’t enough.
Andrew Wilkie takes issue with Crown refusing to accept the regulator’s word.
“Crown Casino is treating us like mugs. They know the big names that are in their casino. It’s part of their business model.”
Inspectors from the Victorian regulator, who were the eyes and ears in the casino, say they were not only discouraged from looking at money laundering, but actively blocked.
“We’d put it up to our manager, and our manager would put it up many times to senior management, but it fell on deaf ears,” Danny says.
‘Bad things happen when good people do nothing’
Three states have now examined Crown’s misconduct. NSW held an inquiry, while Victoria and WA have ongoing royal commissions.
But the Victorian royal commission’s terms of reference do not include a direction to examine the failings of the state-based regulator, something the former inspectors would like to see.
“I think for consistency around the country, gaming should be a federal issue. It should be regulated federally,” Terry says.
Both Crown and the regulator declined to be interviewed by Four Corners. A VCGLR spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to comment while the royal commission into Crown was underway.
VCGLR CEO Catherine Myers has previously made the case that criminal activity at the casino was the responsibility of other agencies such as the federal financial crimes watchdog AUSTRAC.
AUSTRAC has confirmed it is investigating Crown for potential breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.
All five inspectors have risked speaking out so that they might see a regulator restored with sufficient power, expertise, and independence.
“So many ex-inspectors speaking up just shows that they’re concerned and that the system’s broken, and hopefully our voices are taken on board and something’s done about it,” Danny says.
Terry is hoping the risk will pay off.
“I believe bad things happen when good people do nothing. Crown puts itself out there as the world of entertainment. It sells a very dangerous product.”