NSW Liberal Minister took thousands in secret payments from developers

From The Daily Telegraph, 22 Feb 2017

SENSATIONAL leaked Liberal Party financial records ­reveal NSW Multiculturalism Minister Ray Williams has collected thousands of dollars in illegal donations from property developers.

The Daily Telegraph can today reveal Mr Williams — only recently promoted to the ministry by new Premier Gladys Berejiklian — took ­donations from some of Sydney’s most prominent property developers.

The Castle Hill Liberal MP funnelled some of the money through an organisation he founded called The Hawkesbury Club.

The Daily Telegraph has obtained the entire cache of Mr Williams’ internal campaign finance documents over a two-year period, including cheque stubs, transaction records and official Liberal Party receipts.

Although Mr Williams last screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-10-05-04-amnight denied “knowingly” receiving any prohibited donations, the documents outline payments to Mr Williams from at least 10 property developers between June 2012 and July 2013.

The payments escaped declaration laws because most of the donations amount to precisely $990 — just below the $1000 limit which requires public disclosure.

It can be ­revealed one donation from prominent property developer Peter McNamee in July 2013 totalled $1000 and was picked up by the Australian Electoral commission, which asked the Liberal party to repay the money. There are questions over 17 payments to Mr Williams comprising $16,830 — with each of these donations valuing of $990.

Of the $16,830, The Daily Telegraph has confirmed at least $6500 was in fact donated by 10 property developers.

It is up to the Electoral Commission NSW to determine whether further donors fall into the definition of property developers.

Property developers, their spouses and associates were banned from donating to political parties in NSW in January 2010. Since the ban was introduced, 11 Liberal MPs have lost their jobs over allegations that they had been in receipt of prohibited donations. Despite an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry focusing on this issue in 2014, scrutiny never fell on Mr Williams.

Ms Berejiklian has asked the NSW Liberal Party to investigate Mr Williams.

Financial records show Mr Williams raised $53,000 in the three years until April 2014. Documents show membership fees to The Hawkesbury Club were initially $1000, but were lowered to $990. Other property developers bypassed the club and made donations directly to the Hawkesbury SEC, where their donation was ­tabled on the official “transaction list report” and they were provided with an official Liberal Party of Australia ­receipt.

Property developers also attended fundraising events held by Mr Williams — such as the Hawkesbury Ball — where the identities of donors did not need to be declared with authorities.

It can also be revealed two Liberal Party officials, the ­incoming Hawkesbury SEC President Andrew Wind and Treasurer Judy Newland, both separately raised concerns with the Liberal Party’s NSW Finance Operations Director Simon McInnes about Mr Williams’ fundraising activity in early to mid 2014.

In the letters to the party officials, they claimed to have discovered a $24,495 “discrepancy” in donations that was unaccounted for.

They were also concerned that Mr Williams refused to hand over his full financial records and his “deposit” book. Dissatisfied with Mr McInnes response to his concerns, Mr Wind then wrote to Liberal Party state ­director Tony Nutt, now the federal director, in May 2014.

“Given the current ICAC developments over party fundraising within the Liberal Party, I want to ensure that any such transaction should it take place is transparent, legitimate and within the constitutional framework of the NSW Liberal Party,” Mr Wind wrote.

“Given there has been some irregularities in terms of accounting for the claims against funds deposited (by Mr Williams) and the evidence for such in OCER, and the reluctance of the past Hawkesbury SEC Treasurer to pass on their deposit book, I am seeking your advice on whether this transfer of funds between OCER accounts should take effect as requested by Mr Williams.”

Mr Wind quit the Liberal Party in mid 2016. He told The Daily Telegraph he was disappointed with its direction and the way it preselected candidates. Some of the developers who donated money to Mr Williams are among the Castle Hills’ districts most well-known developers names including John Iori, Joseph Saliba, Bruce Lyon, Peter McNamee, Tony Merhi and Michael Gremmo.

“I get on very well with Ray. I love him. I give him $990 every year,” Mr Iori said.

The Daily Telegraph is not suggesting the developers ­engaged in any wrongdoing.

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