Sydney crime figure Pasquale Barbaro shot dead, Joe Antoun’s death caught on video

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Nine people have been charged following the bloody execution of crime figure Pasquale Barbaro, after a series of police raids in Sydney.

Tuesday’s co-ordinated sting unfolded just after midday when heavily armed officers raided more than a dozen properties including four at Sydney’s Olympic Park.

A total of 13 search warrants were executed and nine men aged from 18-29 were charged.

“All those charged with substantive murder were charged in relation to Pasquale Barbaro,” Assistant Commissioner Mark Jenkins told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.


Barbaro was left for dead on a Sydney pavement. Image: Instagram

Nine people have now been charged over the 35-year-old’s death. Image: 7 News

Photo: NSW Police

Barbaro, 35, was shot dead on an Earlwood footpath two weeks ago.

Four of the nine men are facing murder charges and will appear in Sydney courts on Wednesday.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione launched Strike Force Osprey less than two weeks ago after a spate of bloody executions of notorious crime figures on Sydney’s streets.

“There is no end game. We will continue to target these individuals through methodical investigations and disruption strategies. There will be ongoing arrests. We will be protecting the State of NSW. We will be not tolerating any individual who has a total disregard for the community of this state and its laws,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Frank Mennilli said on Wednesday.

The other five men are facing criminal group charges and have court dates for December and January.


Photo: NSW Police

Photo: NSW Police

Photo: NSW Police

Officers from Strike Force Osprey worked with officers from Strike Force Raptor, which was set up in November last year investigating the activities of the Burwood Chapter of the Rebels Outlaw Motorcycle Gang.

Both forces were involved in Tuesday’s raids.

During the raid more than 40 mobile phones, 11 cars, a safe, cash, stolen NSW Police ID was seized and will now be examined by specialist forensic accountants from the Fraud and Cybercrime Squad.

Police from Strike Force Raptor also seized 20 long arms, 23 hand guns, 15 prohibited weapons, including ballistic vests and masks, silencers, a stun gun, and a homemade pipe gun; ammunition, methylamphetamine, and ecstasy, police said on Wednesday.

With eight shooting deaths over the past 17 months in Sydney, police have vowed to stamp out gangland warfare.

Just weeks before Mafia figure Barbaro was shot in Earlwood as he was getting into his Mercedes on November 14, hitman Hamad Assaad, 29, was shot in Georges Hall on October 25.


Pasquale Barbaro pictured with Brothers for Life leader Farhad Qaumi. Source: 7 News

The shooting scene. Source: 7 News

In April, gangland kingpin and convicted killer Walid Ahmad, 40, was killed in a spray of bullets on the rooftop car park of Bankstown Central shopping centre.

His murder is believed to be in retaliation for the fatal shooting of Safwan Charbaji outside a Condell Park panel beater several weeks earlier.

The month before that Michael Davey was shot dead in a driveway in a drive-by shooting in Kingswood. Believed to be a member of the Rebels motorcycle gang, Davey had escaped injury during a shooting at a shopping centre the previous year.

Police hunt for gangland killer

Police forensice teams establish a crime scene after Pasquale Barbar (inset) was killed. Picture: Bill Hearne.

Police forensics teams establish a crime scene after Pasquale Barbar (inset) was killed. Picture: Bill Hearne.

Police from the NSW Public Order and Riot squad arrive at the scene this morning. Picture: AAP

Police from the NSW Public Order and Riot squad arrive at the scene this morning. Picture: AAP

The crime scene in Earlwood. Picture: Bill Hearne.

The crime scene in Earlwood. Picture: Bill Hearne.

Pasquale Barbaro.

Pasquale Barbaro.


Who was Pasquale Barbaro?

Updated about 7 hours ago

Pasquale Timothy Barbaro was a notorious Sydney crime figure and part of a family with known links to the Calabrian mafia, from Italy.

The 35-year-old’s murder last night at Earlwood in Sydney’s inner west was one of several targeted shootings in Sydney this year.

The Barbaro family is well known to police and the criminal underworld.

His grandfather, who was also named Pasquale Barbaro, was murdered in a gangland hit in Brisbane in 1990 after turning police informant.

A cousin — another Pasquale Barbaro — was murdered in a hit in Melbourne in 2003 alongside notorious crime figure Jason Moran.

His uncle, yet another Pasquale Barbaro, is currently serving a 30-year sentence over a massive ecstasy bust — the world’s biggest — discovered in Melbourne in 2007.

Pasquale Timothy Barbaro — killed last night in Earlwood — survived a targeted shooting in Leichhardt in November last year.

Why was he targeted?

There are a number of theories.

Pasquale Timothy Barbaro was due to face the Sydney District Court in December over the production of the drug ice (crystal methamphetamine).

Crime journalist Keith Moor says there are suspicions Mr Barbaro may have been a police informant.

“The suspicion is he was probably killed for breaking the code of ‘omerta’ which is the code of silence,” Mr Moor said.

“The suggestion I’m getting is the dead Pasquale Barbaro was telling tales about the operations of the Calabrian mafia — as was his grandfather way back in the 1990’s.”

Equally, Mr Moor said the killing could be because of something unrelated to gang crime.

“He was involved in a number of criminal offences [including] drugs,” Mr Moor said.

“He’s obviously made some enemies [and there have been] attempts on his life in the past.

“It could boil down to something as simple as a domestic — there have been a number of Calabrian crime figures murdered because they’ve left their wives or slept with the wrong person,” he said.

One thing is clear according to NSW Police Superintendent David Johnson: Mr Barbaro was “clearly the intended victim” of last night’s Earlwood shooting.

Links to other shootings

There was a failed hit on Pasquale Timothy Barbaro‘s life in November last year.

Hamad Assaad, who was shot dead at his Georges Hall home just two weeks ago, was one of the major suspects in that attempted hit.

The Assaad shooting on October 25 has links to another targeted shooting in Bankstown in May.

Superintendent David Johnson said at a press conference today that police can’t comment on whether the murders are related.

“I can’t comment on the homicide investigations or strike forces as they are set up,” Mr Johnson said.

“I can’t say whether these matters are related because I don’t know the answer to that.”

The Calabrian Mafia in Australia

Crime journalist Keith Moor said the Barbaro family’s crime history stretches back decades in Australia.

“They’re going back way before the 1977 murder of Donald Mackay in Griffith,” Mr Moor said.

“The dead Barbaro from Sydney overnight… was literally born into the Calabrian mafia.

“It’s a trait that’s passed on from father to son,” he said.

Mr Moor said the Calabrian mafia is more active than people might realise in Australia.

“If anyone smoked a joint in the 60s, 70s, 80s — and lets face it a lot of people did — they were lining the pockets of the Calabrian mafia,” he said.

“They gradually got into the heroin trade… then they expanded to ecstasy.

“They basically recognised what the next big thing was in the drug market.”


Police found the man, 35-year-old Pasquale Barbaro, on an Earlwood footpath after being alerted to a shooting at about 9.40pm on Monday.

And a grey Audi Q7 found burned out in Sydney’s inner west could be the getaway car used in the execution-style shooting of a man linked to Sydney’s criminal underworld, say police.

Execution of standover man filmed

Meanwhile, the front door execution in 2013 of standover man Joe Antoun, a known associate of underworld figure George Alex, was captured on CCTV and played for a Sydney courtroom today – hours after Pasquale Barbaro was gunned down outside Alex’s home.

Mr Antoun was gunned down on the doorstep of his Strathfield home in Sydney’s inner west on December 16, 2013, in a contract killing allegedly arranged by Brothers 4 Life boss Farhad Quami and his brother Mumtaz.

Farhad, 34, and Mumtaz Quami, 31, have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Antoun, who worked as a debt collector.

In their trial, CCTV footage was played showing a hooded figure waiting for several minutes before pulling out a handgun and firing several times.

The Daily Telegraph reported Crown Prosecutor Ken McKay SC told their NSW Supreme Court trial before a judge alone Antoun was at home with his wife when a camera showed a man at their front door.

“(Mr Antoun’s wife) went to a window and looked out and saw a person and called out to that person, asking who it was. The person she heard say, ‘It’s Adam. I’ve got a package for Joe’,” Mr McKay said.

“At about this time, Joseph Antoun opened the front door. There was a wire security door which was still closed. As he opened the door, Mr Antoun was shot a number of times and died in his house, it seems very quickly after being.”

The court heard, according to The Daily Telegraph, that before Antoun’s death his former business partner Elias “Les” Elias had agreed to purchase Mimtaz Qaumi’s Erina Kebab House for $190,000.

Mr Elias is in the Philippines, according to a police witness, and declined to provide a statement for the trial.

The confronting CCTV footage was shown hours after Barbaro’s execution this morning outside Mr Alex’s Earlwood home.

CCTV of Joe Antoun shot at his Strathfield home

Police investigation

NSW Police believe it could be linked to the killing of Mr Barbaro. “That vehicle has been towed for forensic examination,” Superintendent David Johnson told reporters.

Supt Johsonn said the victim, who had been visiting someone in the street, had been “shot a number of times”.

Police are now appealing for witnesses to come forward so homicide investigators can piece together a chain of events that includes the Audi. Supt Johnson acknowledges some of the victim’s associates might not be keen to contact police.

“Given the sort of nefarious activities these people are engaged in, clearly it is in their best interests to come forward and speak to police,” he added. “These people [the shooters] are dangerous people.”

‘Targeted attack’

Early investigations suggest it was a targeted attack and Larkhall Street was cordoned off today as forensic teams examined the area.

Barbaro’s grandfather and cousin were both killed in gangland hits and there had been unconfirmed rumours Pasquale Barbaro was an informant for the NSW Crime Commission.

Pasquale Barbaro’s grandfather Peter Pasquale Barbaro and his coulsin Pat Barbaro

Pasquale Barbaro’s grandfather Peter Pasquale Barbaro and his cousin Pat Barbaro

Gabriela Pintos lives at the end of street and said she heard gunshots late at night.

“We heard the gunshots … another maybe four gunshots and a couple of minutes later there was someone screaming,” she told AAP.

Another resident told AAP he heard as a many as seven really loud bangs in two bursts and saw a car speed away.

“You knew straight away what it was … I looked out the front and saw a car speed off,” the man, who wanted to be identified as John, said. Witnesses also reported seeing a car with three or four men wearing hoodies parked nearby ahead of the shooting.

He ‘may have broken the mafia code’

Barbaro may have been gunned down in Sydney because he was talking to the authorities, according to a journalist who’s written a book on the Barbaro family.

Journalist Keith Moor says the latest Pasquale Barbaro to die might have been killed for the same reason his grandfather was – he may have been “telling tales outside of school and breaking the code”.

“There could be other motives but that is a line of inquiry the homicide squad in Sydney will be pursuing,” the author of Busted told ABC TV.

Moor believes Monday night’s shooting could be difficult to solve because traditionally the Calabrian mafia are reluctant to talk to authorities. “I’m presuming that none of the Barbaro family will be willing to help police,” he said.

“They’ll probably do their own investigation into what happened.” The journalist said the problem for police trying to crack down on the Barbaros was that, as soon as one was knocked down, another seemed to pop up. “That’s been going on for generations,” he said.

Asaad shooting

The death comes two weeks after another crime figure, Hamad Assaad, was shot dead outside his Georges Hall home.

Mr Assaad was a key suspect in the execution of standover man Walid Ahmad at a Bankstown shopping centre in April.

Infamous underworld figure Jason Moran and Past Barbaro were gunned down in Essendon in 2003.

Infamous underworld figure Jason Moran and Past Barbaro were gunned down in Essendon in 2003.

That killing was thought to be in retaliation for the shooting homicide of Safwan Charbaji outside a nearby panel beater two weeks earlier. Pasquale Barbaro’s grandfather Peter Pasquale Barbaro was gunned down in Brisbane in 1990 while his cousin Pat Barbaro was shot dead in a car park in Melbourne in 2003.

The Pasquale Barbaro sentenced in 2012 jail over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

The Pasquale Barbaro sentenced in 2012 jail over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

Another cousin, also called Pasquale, was involved in what was described as the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

Some 15 million pills were hidden inside tinned tomatoes and shipped by the Calabrian mafia from Italy to Melbourne.

– With AAP


Online dating site victim conned out of $127k, Robyn Clare Pearce jailed for 14 months-Has form


Robyn Clare Pearce jailed for 14 months-Has form so why a shitty short sentence.What about repayment, no remorse she will get out after learning a few more scams in jail to get out there and  rip them off for more money more often. Get real

Sandford woman Robyn Clare Pearce walks from the Hobart Magistrate's Court.

Sandford woman Robyn Clare Pearce walks from the Hobart Magistrate’s Court.

Online dating site victim conned out of $127k, Hobart woman jailed for 14 months

A Hobart woman had been jailed for 14 months for conning $127,000 out of a New South Wales man she met through an online dating site.

Robyn Clare Pearce, 62 of Sandford, pleaded guilty to dishonestly acquiring a financial advantage.

Pearce met the 60-year-old retired public servant online in August 2007 and by October that year was spinning elaborate lies to get him to lend her money.

He did so on 122 occasions, lending a total of $127,000.

She gave him several reasons for needing money, including legal fees incurred pursuing her ex-husband for child maintenance, furnishing a flat and buying a car for her daughter and paying for her elderly mother’s medical treatment.

In truth, Pearce spent the money on gambling.

The court heard Pearce put $2 million through poker machines at Wrest Point Casino between July 2007 and December 2010.

By November 2008, her victim was selling assets to fund the loans to her.

Victim sold home after mortgage default threat

He extended his mortgage but the retiree was unable to keep up with the payments.

When his bank threatened to default on the mortgage, he sold his house and moved into a modest home in rural Victoria.

The court heard Pearce repeatedly promised she would move there to join him and would get a job to pay him back.

But Pearce’s physical and mental health meant she knew at the time she was making promises that she would never be able to keep.

Justice Helen Wood accepted that Pearce did not befriend the man with the intent to defraud him.

“I accept that the relationship the defendant had with the complainant was a friendship and she valued that,” Justice Wood said.

“She did not set out to prey on him.” I say absolute bullshit to that

History of similar offences

But Justice Wood said Pearce had taken advantage of her victim’s kind and generous nature and spun him elaborate lies repeatedly in order to convince him to lend her money.

Pearce had originally also been charged with defrauding a 92-year-old American man she met through a Christian dating site of about $122,000 between 2011 and 2015.

But that charge was dropped after her plea of guilty in the current case.

In 2012, she was jailed for convincing a Queensland man she met through a dating site to part with almost $80,000.

The court heard Pearce had previously also received suspended, or partly suspended sentences, for other dishonesty matters.

She was sentenced to 14 months’ jail for the latest offending, with Justice Wood noting Pearce’s anxiety and agoraphobia, and her poor physical health, would make the sentence more burdensome for her.

Pearce will not be eligible for parole until she has served seven months.


Online love fraudster Robyn Clare Pearce behind bars after fleecing lonely NSW man of $127,000

A GAMBLING-addicted Sandford woman has been jailed for defrauding a lonely pensioner of more than $120,000 in an online love scam.

Robyn Clare Pearce, 62, pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining a financial benefit by deception.

In the Supreme Court in Hobart this morning, Justice Helen Wood said Pearce met a 60-year-old New South Wales man through an internet dating site in August 2007.

Although the pair never met, they exchanged messages and Pearce asked the man for money to pay bills.

After he transferred $1500 to her account, she continued to make demands every few days for money for medical care, to buy a vehicle or furniture and to pay debts.

When he tried to refuse her demands, Pearce became insistent. In all she received $127,000 from the man.


A lonely NSW man targeted in an online dating scam was relieved of $127,000 by a Tasmanian woman, who has been jailed for fraud.

Justice Wood said as a result of Pearce’s actions, the man had been forced to sell his home and move to a more modest abode in rural Victoria — holding out hope that she would move to be with him.

He had been left in financial trouble, depressed and socially isolated by her actions and had trouble trusting people, the court heard.

Pearce had lost $200,000 after putting $2 million though the poker machines at Wrest Point Casino, Justice Wood said.

The judge noted Pearce has a long history of fraud offending and had breached three suspended sentenced by her actions.

She said the offending has taken advantage of the victim’s kind and generous nature and Pearce’s moral culpability was high, despite a number of mental and physical problems which made prison a tough environment for her.

She sentenced Pearce to 14 months in prison, with a seven month non-parole period.

Pearce was also accused of stealing $122,000 from a 91-year-old American man she met via a Christian dating website but those charges were discontinued by the Crown.


Sandford woman Robyn Clare Pearce pleads not guilty in Hobart court to alleged online dating fraud

A SANDFORD woman has pleaded not guilty to fraud offences relating to an alleged internet dating scam.

Robyn Clare Pearce, 61, appeared in the Hobart Magistrates Court this morning.

She is charged with dishonestly acquiring a financial advantage.

Police allege Ms Pearce defrauded tens of thousands of dollars from a 64-year-old New South Wales man between April 2011 and January this year.

Magistrate Simon Cooper granted Ms Pearce bail and ordered her to appear in the Supreme Court on June 9.


Woman admits internet ‘love fraud’

Updated 16 Oct 2012, 10:40am

Sandford woman Robyn Clare Pearce walks from the Hobart Magistrate's Court

Sandford woman Robyn Clare Pearce walks from the Hobart Magistrate’s Court

A Hobart court has ordered a woman to seek counselling after she convinced a Queensland man to give her nearly $80,000 over the internet.

Robyn Clare Pearce from Sandford in southern Tasmania admitted dishonestly acquiring money from a Queensland man she met through an internet dating site in 2007.

During a three-year phone and email relationship, Peace convinced the man to lend her nearly $80,000.

The Hobart Magistrates Court heard she made up a variety of reasons for borrowing the money but never paid it back.

She also got the man to falsely email that she had repaid some of the money.

Pearce was sentenced to 10 months’ jail for dishonestly acquiring a financial advantage relating to $22,600.

Eight months of her sentence was suspended, provided Peace is of good behaviour and undergoes psychological treatment.

She also has to pay back the money.


 

Former WA minister Gordon Hill defrauded Firepower investors of $3.4m


Former WA minister Gordon Hill defrauded Firepower investors of $3.4m, court finds

10.32pm 21/04/16

A former West Australian police minister defrauded about 80 investors of $3.4 million, which was meant to be spent on shares in the failed fuel technology company Firepower, the WA Supreme Court has found.

Gordon Leslie Hill, 65, a former Firepower director and minister in the Burke, Dowding and Lawrence State Labor governments, was ordered by Justice Andrew Beech earlier this month to repay the group of investors.

The civil action against Hill, 65, is the group’s first small victory in their long-running bid to recoup the money they paid for shares which they never received.

They are among many investors who lost money in the company, which claimed to have developed a magic petrol pill that improved fuel economy and reduced emissions from motor vehicles.

Firepower collapsed in 2007, taking $100 million in investors’ money.

The group of investors made deposits ranging from $2,000 to $200,000 between December 2004 and June 2005 into a trust used by Hill, who was then working as a solicitor, to buy shares in a Firepower company registered in the Cayman Islands.

But they never received their shares because Hill transferred their funds into companies that benefited himself as well as Firepower boss Tim Johnston, who had requested the money.

This included payments to companies called Green Triton, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, and Operations Firepower, which was registered in WA.

Hill ‘recklessly indifferent to obligations’: judge

Justice Beech said an email from Hill to Mr Johnston showed that he “was acutely conscious” he was not supposed to use the money in the trust, and “deliberately turned a blind eye to the obligations that he knew he had as a trustee”.

“It is a real problem for me sending funds from the Trust account in this way … Legally the money is not meant to be used until the shares are issued,” the March 2005 email said.

Hill denied he acted fraudulently, with his lawyer arguing he intended for investors to receive shares in a different Firepower company, registered in the British Virgin Islands.

But Justice Beech disagreed, saying “at best Hill was recklessly indifferent to his obligations”.

“He consciously put those obligations to one side when complying with Mr Johnston’s instructions and making the Trust Payments, thereby benefiting some or all of Green Triton, Operations Firepower, Mr Johnston and himself,” Justice Beech said.

The legal bid by the investors’ group first started two years after the company collapsed, but was interrupted by other legal battles as well as Hill going into bankruptcy between 2010 and 2013.

Investors seek to recoup money

The group’s lawyer, Stephen Penrose, said the next step would involve a means inquiry to determine how Hill would pay the investors.

If he cannot pay, they will look to recoup money from the Legal Contribution Trust, a fund established to compensate clients of solicitors who misappropriate trust funds.

Mr Penrose said the investors – as well as another group owed $1 million by Mr Hill but who were not part of the Supreme Court action – needed Hill to be found to have acted fraudulently to apply to the fund.

But he was not confident they would receive the full amount of money they were owed, including interest.

While some of the investors were wealthy, many were just average people.

“They are just normal people, mums and dads. That’s the shame – they were normal people who put in money,” he said.

Hill’s lawyer has been contacted for comment.

Topics: courts-and-trials, fraud-and-corporate-crime, perth-6000, wa, cayman-islands, virgin-islands-british


 Firepower founder will not face charges over company collapse

Updated 26 Sep 2014, 4:52pm

The corporate regulator has announced there will be no further penalties against executives from the collapsed fuel additives business Firepower.

It is six years since Firepower collapsed, leaving investors who had poured $100 million into the company with nothing to show for it.

The business had spent liberally on sporting sponsorships and celebrity connections to promote its fuel additives, which were subsequently discredited.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) was successful three years ago in banning Firepower chairman Tim Johnston from managing another company for 20 years, while another executive was banned for six years.

The regulator says it has now finalised its investigation into possible criminal charges.

ASIC says the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has reviewed its brief of evidence and decided there is not a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction against Mr Johnston or anyone else linked to the company.


Lack of money ends Firepower investigation

Updated 21 May 2012, 9:48am

Firepower’s liquidator believes the former head of the fuel technology company, Tim Johnston, could have stashed millions of dollars offshore.

The liquidator Bryan Hughes has also confirmed that an investigation into the collapsed company is closed because investigators can no longer afford to bankroll it.

He says creditors are unwilling to put more money into it.

Firepower collapsed in 2008 with debts of at least $100 million owed to more than 1200 investors.

Mr Johnston was declared bankrupt last year.

Mr Hughes says trying to find out exactly where the money is, is not worth the cost of continuing.

“I believe there is some money offshore, we can prove it in a commercial sense,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to prove it to the requirements required by law to substantiate it but the trouble is we can track it so far.”

Worrell is the forensic accountancy firm that was doing the investigating but Mr Hughes says they cannot continue doing so any longer.

“They have no further funds,” he Mr said.

“They’ve approached all creditors, including myself, as to whether we have any funds to contribute to their investigations into his [Mr Johnston’s] bankruptcy and his personal estate.

“We don’t and obviously other creditors are disinclined to contribute funds.”

Mr Hughes says this effectively ends the chances of private investors recouping money from Mr Johnston.

“It’s in third parties, it’s in offshore jurisdictions, it’s in other companies,” he said.

“And, until somebody can find exactly where it all is and how that sheets home to Mr Johnston, it wouldn’t be worth the cost of doing it.”

Mr Hughes says the difficulty of investigating the collapsed company highlights flaws in Australia’s business framework


ASIC bans Firepower boss for 20 years

Updated 21 Jul 2011, 5:10pm

The Federal Court in Perth has banned the founder of the discredited fuel pill technology company Firepower from managing companies for 20 years.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) brought action against former Firepower chairman Tim Johnston after the company collapsed in 2008, leaving investors more than $100 million out of pocket.

Justice John Gilmour said Mr Johnston should be excluded for a very long period of time from having access to or control over shareholders’ investments.

He said it was the kind of conduct which diminishes investor and public confidence in the commercial markets.

Mr Johnston’s investment manager Quentin Ward has been banned from managing a company for six years.

Mr Johnston did not turn up in court today to hear the decision


 

Former top Vic Lib Damien Mantach charged over $1.5m taken from party


 Updated 18/11/15 2.30pm

Not the first time either…. he had a go at making some extra bucks in the apple isle of Tassie too a while back and was moved on…mmm just like those priests who have rumours made about them tongue in cheek)

Former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach.

Former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach.

Former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach has been charged with 44 counts of obtaining financial advantage totalling about $1.5 million.

In August, Mantach was accused of embezzling election campaign funds, with the money alleged to have vanished over four years to fund his lifestyle.

An audit of the party’s finances after last year’s state election loss uncovered unauthorised financial transactions, with money missing from both state and federal campaign funds.

Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad were called in to investigate.

Police said a 42-year-old man from Ocean Grove is to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court this afternoon.


Victoria Police investigate Liberal Party state director over embezzlement claims worth $1.5m

Updated 20 Aug 2015, 7:27pm

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle.

An audit of the party’s finances after last year’s state election loss uncovered unauthorised financial transactions linked to Mr Mantach, with money missing from both state and federal campaign funds.

The Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad has been called in to investigate.

Liberal Party president Michael Kroger said Mr Mantach had admitted to wrongdoing.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger said.

Key points:

  • Liberal Party accuses former state director of embezzling $1.5m
  • Alleged theft happened over four years
  • Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad called in to investigate
  • Party believes Mantach took the money to fund his lifestyle

He said the party believed Mr Mantach had acted alone.

“We’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all,” he said.

It also emerged that Mr Mantach repaid tens of thousands of dollars during his time as state director of the Tasmanian branch.

In a letter to members posted on Facebook, Tasmanian Liberal president Geoff Page said in March 2008 that when he left the role, Mr Mantach fully repaid a liability of nearly $48,000 for personal expenses.

Mr Page said the division considered the matter closed and had robust internal financial processes.

Mr Kroger said he did not believe the missing money influenced the 2014 election result, or that it would affect the next federal election.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy said the party was furious at what he called a “pretty basic effort at embezzlement”.

“We want our money back,” he said.

“We want this matter sent to the police and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done.

“I saw someone making a comment that we’re white hot with anger, that’s just the start of it.”

Mr Kroger said the missing money was confined to the party’s Victorian division and he was confident some of it could be recovered through assets bought with the funds.

Mr Kroger conceded the Liberal Party had failed to properly monitor spending.

“Obviously it should have been picked up years ago — it wasn’t,” he said.

Former premier Denis Napthine, who led the party during last year’s campaign, said he was surprised and bitterly disappointed by the allegations.

The party’s administrative committee met this morning to discuss how to deal with the missing money.

Mr Mantach has been contacted for comment.


 

What happened to $34 million from Aboriginal fund on Groote Eylandt?


A matter of trust…

05/11/2015

It was millions of dollars in mining royalties that was meant to be spent for the benefit of the Groote Eylandt community.

Instead, tens of millions were spent on 156 cars and boats, fridges, a barge, gambling at the casino and charter flights.

The latest chapter in the extraordinary saga played out in the Darwin Supreme Court on Monday.

The former public officer of Groote Eylandt Aboriginal Trust (GEAT), Rosalie Lalara, had earlier pleaded guilty to misappropriating almost $500,000.

Her bail was revoked and she is now behind bars awaiting sentencing.

A total of $34 million disappeared from the GEAT coffers between 2010 and 2012, leaving just $400,000 remaining in the account.

While Lalara has pleaded guilty to a fraction of the missing millions, exactly what happened to the rest remains a mystery.

But those involved in the case said little of it appeared to have been spent on housing, education or the needs of the community.

Jacqueline Lahne was brought in as the interim operations manager at GEAT when the trust was put into administration in 2012.

“My initial impression was that there was a group of people [on Groote Eylandt] who were literally living like rock stars,” she said in an interview with the ABC.

Chartered planes, vehicles waiting for them at airports, they owned multiple vehicles and boats themselves. They had access endlessly to cash for their lifestyles and then for their families.

Groote Eylandt, a remote island off Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, regularly appears at the top of the Northern Territory’s richest postcodes.

It earns millions each year in royalties from the nearby South32 manganese mine.

Since its inception in the early 1960s, the trust has earned more than $200 million in royalties.

Lalara told the ABC she is not responsible for all the money that went missing.

“They accuse me of being a thief and I don’t steal,” Lalara said in an interview with the ABC.

Lalara was the community’s go-to person on the trust and said not everyone was happy with the trust’s rules on how royalty money should be spent.

“They say, ‘Oh, it’s our money, you should spend this money on us. Why you keeping the money, what for? It shouldn’t be up there in the bank, it should be down here spent’,” she said.

Court documents in a separate case allege Lalara was involved in the purchase of 156 cars and boats at a total cost of $5 million.

A barge and real estate in Cairns were also bought with trust money.

The documents alleged cash cheques to a total value of $3.5 million were written from the trust account and fraudulently recorded against funeral costs.

Millions remain unaccounted for due to poor record keeping

In court documents in civil proceedings against Darwin’s Skycity casino, it is alleged Lalara gambled more than $1 million of trust money.

“If I had a million dollars would I be gambling it? No, thank you. That is all bad,” she said.

“We went and bought a whole heap of stuff … maybe fridges, washing machines, even air conditioners, yeah, beddings, beds, mattresses, yep.”

But what exactly has happened to the remaining $33 million is unclear.

Ms Lahne said that many millions remain unaccounted for because GEAT kept poor records.

She believes non-Indigenous businesses who preyed on the trust received a large percentage of the missing millions.

“I guess we’d call them carpetbaggers wouldn’t we?” she said.

“They’re people, or sharks, that prey on vulnerable populations.

“They find that organisations are limited in their governance structures and capacity, they work their way in there.”

Court documents alleged one operator who did business with the trust regularly charged 30 per cent commission to the trust.

“Vehicles that had been purchased by the trust weeks before for perhaps $35,000, were sold on for $5,000 or $10,000 in cash,” Ms Lahne said.

“So the trust automatically lost a portion of cash and the vehicle disappeared, plates were destroyed, it’s gone.”

Purchase of cars for teens triggered ‘distrust’

Not all of the community were benefiting from the largesse.

It was the purchase of cars for kids barely in their teens that caused the community outrage and made them act.

“Thirteen-year-old girls getting bought a car and 15-year-old boys getting a boat,” said Keith Hansen, who has lived on the island for 25 years and is married to a local beneficiary.

“That’s when the distrust really came into place, when they were buying for a birthday for a 13-year-old girl a flash Ford Falcon sedan.”

Groote Eylandters told the ABC that 300 locals confronted Lalara about the trust’s finances on the oval in the town of Anuragu in early 2012.

Punches were thrown, the police were called and there were multiple arrests.

On March 12, 2012 more than 500 locals signed a petition which was sent to the Northern Territory Attorney-General, saying “many millions of dollars have been wasted and corruption is rife … no-one is game to do anything for fear of retribution”.

The Government stepped in and a statutory manager was appointed.

Ms Lahne worked alongside the statutory manager and said she was “shocked” when she arrived on Groote Eylandt.

“I would have expected with all the years of royalties going into that island to see more supporting infrastructure, better local health services, better support agencies that the trust might be investing in but there was no evidence of that,” she said.

But Lalara said she was put under great cultural pressure by beneficiaries to keep buying things for them with money from the trust.

“I reckon I was stuck with the two worlds. White-man world, white-man way and blackfella way. And what I was trying to do was to do it our way, and it’s not written in the book,” she said.

“We try to balance the both sides so it doesn’t how you say … ruin things. But it obviously ruined [things].”

Lalara is angry that the community has not defended her since charges were laid against her in 2013.

“The community is the fault and I say they are gutless and they are coward and it’s their fault all this happened,” she said.

“Now everybody’s … happy sitting behind their cars and steering wheels and that they don’t even want to help [me].”

Auditors under the microscope

In a separate case, three international companies employed to give financial and legal advice to GEAT’s trustees are now being sued.

In a civil case in the Darwin Supreme Court, GEAT is alleging KPMG, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Minter Ellison failed to detect numerous “irregularities” in the trust’s operation in the 18 months that $34 million was spent.

Trust lawyers claim if the firms had performed their duties diligently they could have prevented tens of millions of dollars being misspent.

“The flag could have been raised years ago,” Ms Lahne said.

The ABC approached KPMG, Deloitte and Minter Ellison, which have combined to fight the civil claims against them. They all declined to comment.

Despite $200 million being paid in royalties to the trust over the past 50 years, Ms Lahne said there was little evidence on the island of the wealth received by the 1,800 Aboriginal beneficiaries of GEAT.

“I think they are a very strong community, they’re on their land, they’re on country and they’re really quite traditional in my experience,” Ms Lahne said.

“I think the lost opportunity is incalculable. I think generations to come will look back … and say ‘look what we could have had’ you know from that money, had it been invested properly.”

It was high drama in the Darwin Supreme Court earlier this week when Lalara sacked her lawyer and handed in an unsigned document that claimed judges appointed in Australia after 1901 did not have valid legal powers, and therefore no judge had the standing to decide her case.

Lalara’s bail was revoked and she is now in custody. Her next court appearance is set down for December 21.

 

7-Eleven management vow to fully refund all exploited workers (Really? let’s see)


Senior 7-Eleven management have apologised “unreservedly” to exploited workers and vowed to fully refund underpaid staff, even if they are now overseas.

A Senate Committee held a special public hearing in Melbourne to examine the exploitation of workers at the chain store, as part of an inquiry into Australia’s temporary work visa program.

The convenience stores have come under scrutiny following an ABC Four Corners investigation which revealed the company was systematically paying its workers about half the minimum wage.

Many of the staff were foreigners who were being forced to work in contravention of their visa conditions.

The inquiry today heard the underpaying of staff in the convenience store chain was systemic and had been happening for decades.

7-Eleven Australian chairman Russell Withers admitted the behaviour was abhorrent.

“I want to stress that this has been highly embarrassing and I apologise unreservedly to any worker that has worked in a 7-Eleven store who has not been paid correctly,” he said.

New methods of staff exploitation were revealed during the inquiry, including some franchise owners who charged workers tens of thousands of dollars to secure a working visa.

Mohammed Rashid Ullat Thodi lost his job as a result of speaking out about the pay scam.

He told the inquiry some store owners had charged workers $30,000 to $70,000 to sponsor them on a visa.

“While it could be either an arrangement of taking the money off their pay, like if you work this many hours you could get this many pay,” he said.

He said the money went straight to the franchise owners.

Mr Withers maintained rogue franchisees were the cause of the problem.

“It is simply not in our knowledge whether the franchisee employee has been underpaid or not,” he told the inquiry. This prick has built his empire on this very lie!!!

But during the inquiry consumer advocate Michael Fraser, who said he alerted 7-Eleven to the problem in 2012, questioned how senior management did not know of the problem.

“How does an Indian in Melbourne, an Indian franchisee and a Pakistani franchisee in Sydney, and a Chinese franchisee in Brisbane, how do they all know the same scam?” Mr Fraser asked during the inquiry.

“How is it possible that me with no budget can stumble on such a big wage scandal buying a loaf of bread yet head office with all their oversight find no systemic problem?”

7-Eleven said it should know next month how many of its 620 franchisees underpaid their staff.

Calls for workers to be given visa amnesty

Tens of thousands of workers have potentially been affected. Most are on visas restricting their working time to 20 hours per week.

Many have been forced to work 40 hours, but paid for only 20.

Complaints were met with threats that they would be reported for breaching their visas.

It has led to calls from lawyers that anyone who has breached their visa conditions while working for 7-Eleven be given an amnesty.

The Greens member for the seat of Melbourne, Adam Bandt, said it was crucial the workers were able to give evidence free of any threat of deportation.

“Something is wrong in Australia where the head of 7-Eleven is a millionaire if not a billionaire and the people who are working in 7-Eleven stores are getting paid for only half of the hours they work and threatened with deportation back to their home country if they complain,” he said.

“We’ve heard from many, many people now that they want to complain, to be paid the fair Australian minimum wage, but they’re told that if they do it, they’ll be reported to the Immigration Department and deported.

“Now that’s not fair.

“These people are working long hours for low pay.

“They shouldn’t also have to face [a] threat of deportation if they speak up and do the right thing.”

7-Eleven has set up an independent panel to investigate the underpayments.

Former state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Damien Mantach, busted embezzling $1.5 million in the election campaign funds.



money hungry 2

abc.net.au

Embezzlement allegation: The Liberal Party will have to rebuild trust

The Drum

Opinion

Fri 21 Aug 2015, 9:58am

It’s the thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members who should feel most outraged at the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of campaign funds. And the party hierarchy will have to work hard to earn their trust back, writes Terry Barnes.

The Victorian Liberal Party is in a state of deep shock after revelations its former state director, Damien Mantach, is accused of embezzling $1.5 million of party funds over a number of years.

While investigations are continuing, Victorian Liberal president, Michael Kroger, has emailed party members saying that Mantach is the only person in the frame, and all will be done to recover as much of the missing funds as possible.

It appears a breathtaking $1.5 million of party funds was diverted for personal benefit. Victorian Liberal parliamentary leader, Matthew Guy, said that what was taken was “a very significant portion of the money raised by the party in fundraising … People did a lot of work to get that. We all feel completely gutted and furious”.

There certainly will be former Victorian Liberal MPs closely defeated in last November’s state election whose anger will be, like Guy’s, white-hot, sharing his view that the missing funds could have saved their campaigns. Current marginal seat federal MPs will feel likewise. But having escaped with their parliamentary pensions or severance packages, they personally got off lightly.

What really angers and disappoints about Mantach’s alleged actions is that they were not really stealing from a mere corporate entity, the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia. Nor did they ruin the large corporate donors and high net worth individuals who donate to political parties, because that is part of what they do to build political networks, relationships and influence.

No, the grand embezzlement and the governance failures that allowed it to happen are above all an utter betrayal of, and insult to, thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members and supporters across Victoria who are not wealthy or personally powerful but are the soul of the party.

They’re the ones who turn out in all weather at election times to support MPs and candidates, door-knock, stuff letterboxes and talk up the Liberal cause to anyone who will listen.

They’re the ones who greet you at the polling booth on election days with a smile and a how-to-vote card, and look forward to bantering with voters and their counterparts from other parties.

They’re the ones who faithfully attend branch meetings, local party events, run the trivia and soup nights, and buy the tickets in the raffle that inevitably is a part of any political gathering – and donate back the prizes.

They’re the ones who drive up to hundreds of kilometres to attend party councils and pre-selection conventions.

They’re the ones who organise local electorate fundraising functions, work tirelessly to make them well-attended and successful, and cheerfully endure the proverbial rubber chicken and drinks at bar prices, because they buy their own tickets as well as sell them.

They’re the ones who pay membership subscriptions or respond to bigwigs’ circular appeals for donations. Many may not be able to afford to give much, but their trickles join to become a funding river for the party: a river, it seems, that can easily be dipped into by the unscrupulous.

And they’re the ones who are most entitled to feel gutted and angry at what has happened.

As a group, most ordinary members of the Liberal Party are older and more conservative than their MPs. They are often retired, and volunteer for party work because it gives them the satisfaction of furthering a cause, or an MP or candidate, they believe in passionately.

Others are young activists with stars in their eyes and idealism in their hearts.

Unlike the likes of Malcolm Turnbull, most Liberal rank-and-file members don’t have palatial mansions to go home to, nor much spare cash. Contrary to the Liberal silvertail image, many members and local Liberal supporters are students, pensioners or self-funded retirees on very modest incomes, and donate what they often can ill afford.

Yet they do so willingly and turn out for the party because they believe, as the Victorian Division’s website is bannered, that “The Liberal Party exists to provide high quality governments that empower people to solve the major challenges they face in their lives”.

This grassroots faith is what’s been shaken to its core by what has happened.

The Liberal organisation will recover and be reformed. As incoming Victorian president earlier this year, taking office just as Mantach left, Kroger was refreshingly open and honest with his members and the public as soon as the appalling situation was confirmed. That welcome candour is a good start to rebuilding trust in a crisis.

But just as with former Health Services Union leaders Craig Thomson, Michael Williamson and Kathy Jackson, this is yet another case of an elected or appointed official feeling somehow entitled to take advantage of the so-called “little people” who are their rank-and-file members, even though ultimately they owed everything to those they betrayed.

This week’s revelations, be they Mantach’s alleged activities or Jackson’s humiliation in court, should remind elected and appointed office holders in political parties and politically-active organisations alike that respecting the trust of their members and the public is fundamental to public life and a healthy democracy. Their position and status is a conferred privilege, not a personal fiefdom.

Fortunately, most of these office holders, across the political spectrum, work very hard to earn and retain that trust.

The Victorian Liberal Party will likely find, as the HSU has found, and indeed as federal MPs are finding with ongoing public anger over abused parliamentary “entitlements”, when the bond of trust with their ordinary members and supporters is broken, it is very, very hard to restore. But if it looks to its grass roots members, and respects and honours their values, aspirations and commitment in reforming its governance and accountability, the party will recover better and stronger for this scarifying experience.

Terry Barnes is a policy consultant, former senior Howard government adviser and member of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party. Twitter: @TerryBarnes5.


abc.net.au

Tasmanian Liberals assure members former state director repaid all money

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:23pm

The Tasmanian Liberals have assured members the party is not affected by allegations former state director Damien Mantach stole $1.5 million from the election fund of the Victorian Liberal Party.

The police fraud squad is investigating the allegations against Mr Mantach, who served as state director in both Tasmania and Victoria.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle in Victoria.

Tasmanian Liberal Party president Geoff Page used Facebook to confirmed that Mr Mantach did owe the Tasmanian branch money in 2008.

“I have today been advised that Mr Mantach had in 2008 a liability for personal expenses to the Tasmanian division totalling $47,981.78, which was fully repaid by Mr Mantach to the division upon his departure in March of that year,” he said.

Mr Page went on to assure members he was confident no other funds had gone missing.

“As the debt was settled in full the Division considered the matter closed,” he said.

“The Tasmanian division has robust internal financial processes which, in keeping with our obligations to our membership have been periodically reviewed and continually improved since 2008 and are annually audited.”


abc.net.au

Police to investigate Liberal Party $1.5m embezzlement claims

By Jean Edwards

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:27pm

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle.

An audit of the party’s finances after last year’s state election loss uncovered unauthorised financial transactions linked to Mr Mantach, with money missing from both state and federal campaign funds.

The Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad has been called in to investigate.

Liberal Party president Michael Kroger said Mr Mantach had admitted to wrongdoing.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger said.

Key points:

  • Liberal Party accuses former state director of embezzling $1.5m
  • Alleged theft happened over four years
  • Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad called in to investigate
  • Party believes Mantach took the money to fund his lifestyle

He said the party believed Mr Mantach had acted alone.

“We’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all,” he said.

It also emerged that Mr Mantach repaid tens of thousands of dollars during his time as state director of the Tasmanian branch.

In a letter to members posted on Facebook, Tasmanian Liberal president Geoff Page said in March 2008 that when he left the role, Mr Mantach fully repaid a liability of nearly $48,000 for personal expenses.

Mr Page said the division considered the matter closed and had robust internal financial processes.

Mr Kroger said he did not believe the missing money influenced the 2014 election result, or that it would affect the next federal election.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy said the party was furious at what he called a “pretty basic effort at embezzlement”.

“We want our money back,” he said.

“We want this matter sent to the police and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done.

“I saw someone making a comment that we’re white hot with anger, that’s just the start of it.”

Mr Kroger said the missing money was confined to the party’s Victorian division and he was confident some of it could be recovered through assets bought with the funds.

Mr Kroger conceded the Liberal Party had failed to properly monitor spending.

“Obviously it should have been picked up years ago — it wasn’t,” he said.

Former premier Denis Napthine, who led the party during last year’s campaign, said he was surprised and bitterly disappointed by the allegations.

The party’s administrative committee met this morning to discuss how to deal with the missing money.

Mr Mantach has been contacted for comment.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 20/08/2015

Reporter: Madeleine Morris

Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blind-sided by claims a former Director stole $1.5 million of funds with the fraud squad investigating allegations and branch members asking if other financial dealings are suspect.

Transcript

SABRA LANE, PRESENTER: Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blindsided by allegations its former director stole $1.5 million of party funds.

The party believes Damian Mantach siphoned off the money using fake invoices and Victoria police is now investigating.

Liberal politicians are furious and say the loss is a slap in the face to party members.

Late today, the Tasmanian Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses he racked up while director of that state’s party.

Madeleine Morris reports.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER: We’re white hot with anger. That’s just the start of it.

DENIS NAPTHINE, FORMER VICTORIAN PREMIER: I’m surprised, I’m shocked, I’m bitterly disappointed.

MADELEINE MORRIS, REPORTER: Sombre-faced and genuinely shocked, Victorian Liberal MPs arrived this morning to be briefed on the alleged theft of $1.5 million by one of their own.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER II: We just want to get to the truth and the bottom of the matter.

MICHAEL KROGER, LIBERAL PARTY VIC. BRANCH: Good morning, everybody. Well as you know, the Liberal Party is today referring some matters to the Victoria Police relating to the unauthorised removal of some party funds from the party head office, solely the work of one person. It should’ve been detected a long time ago. It wasn’t, which is regrettable. And the party’s obviously gonna make sure that this never happens again.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That person is Damien Mantach, the Victorian Liberal Party’s state director until March this year. The party believes that over a period of four years, Damien Mantach siphoned off money from Victorian Liberal headquarters via fake invoices for fake work.

The irregularities were uncovered when new state Liberal president Michael Kroger ordered a forensic audit of the accounts when he took over after last year’s disastrous state election.

NICK ECONOMOU, POLITICAL ANALYST: The state Liberal Party is in a bit of trouble and it’s been subject to a great deal of internal tension. There’d been problems within the parliamentary wing of the party. That contributed of course to the Liberals’ defeat at the last state election. And we also know that there were all sorts of tensions in the party organisation, the party membership.

DENIS NAPTHINE: I’m absolutely devastated, but particularly for the candidates across the state of Victoria who worked extremely hard, for the Liberal Party members and volunteers who worked extremely hard. This is a real shock to all of us.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That includes Angelo Kakouros, chair of the party’s South Barwon branch. He’s been fielding calls from party members all day.

ANGELO KAKOUROS, CHAIR, LIBERAL PARTY SOUTH BARWON BRANCH: It is a lack of trust and great, great disappointment.

MADELEINE MORRIS: But Mr Kakouros says his branch has been worried about the former state director for some time.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: I’ve had concerns with Damien Mantach for the last three to four years as a state director and personal experience and just the way things have operated and the communication between Damien, the administrative committee and some of the people within the organisation with their communication here locally in our area.

NICK ECONOMOU: It’s a very, very big task to try and keep track of what’s going on and to keep paid full-time officials answerable and accountable in what is essentially a voluntary organisation. The state treasurer of the Liberal Party would be a volunteer after all. Now, on top of this we’re getting increasing regulation to try and regulate the flow of donations. … But I suspect that that may be encouraging clever people to be a bit tricky here and try and find ways to squirrel resources away.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, Michael Kroger admitted there was a systemic problem with the Liberal Party accounting and changes were being made.

MICHAEL KROGER: More people in the accounting section and different oversights in relation to levels of authorised expenditure and a greater role for the party finance committee and more attention on these matters by the party executive.

MADELEINE MORRIS: It’s not the first time Damien Mantach has been in the headlines. Two years ago, he was investigated and ultimately cleared over payments he authorised to a former Liberal staffer who quit after being implicated in a scandal that snared the Police Minister.

And late today, the Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay nearly $48,000 in personal expenses when he was Tasmanian branch state director.

The fallout today extended all the way from Spring Street to Canberra.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, FEDERAL LABOR MP: In 2013 the Prime Minister said, and I quote, “I know Damien Mantach well. He’s a person of integrity. So let’s see where this investigation goes. He has my confidence.” Does the Prime Minister agree that this ringing endorsement is yet another failure of judgment on his part?

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: But I can inform the House that matters concerning the individual in question have this morning been referred to the Victorian Police.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, no answer at the Mantach family home and Damien Mantach couldn’t be reached on the phone.

There is palpable shock here in Victoria that this could’ve happened to the party which prides itself on good financial management, particularly amongst Liberal rank and file. One branch chair told me it was like finding out the priest had been stealing from the collection plate. But there’s also relief it’s been uncovered by the party’s new state leadership.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: Michael Kroger, the state president, he’s doing a fantastic job in order to bring honesty and transparency back into the party.

MADELEINE MORRIS: The impact for the party may yet be felt in the place it will hurt most: the coffers.

NICK ECONOMOU: The Liberal Party really does rely heavily on membership fees and donations, so I think something that might damage the reputation of the party’s fundraising ability could be really seriously damaging to the Liberal Party.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER III: I think this is simply a matter of we’ve been robbed. We want our money back and we want justice done. Police will investigate and i think that’s all I should say at this point in time.

SABRA LANE: Madeleine Morris reporting.


Rachael Brown reported this story on Thursday, August 20, 2015 12:20:47

 abc.net.au

 Fmr Vic Liberal state director accused of stealing $1.5m from party over four years
 TRANSCIPT

ELEANOR HALL: Let’s go now to Victoria where that state’s branch of the Liberal Party is having some trouble of its own.

The Liberal leader Matthew Guy has accused the former state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Damien Mantach, of embezzling $1.5 million in the election campaign funds.

Mr Guy says his party is “white hot” with anger, and that the funds could’ve made a difference in last year’s election.

In Melbourne, Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal Party says discrepancies were uncovered during a forensic audit of the party’s funds after last year’s state election loss.

The party’s former state director Damien Mantach is being accused of stealing $1.5 million over four years, but the audit continues.

Mr Mantach has not responded to the ABC’s calls.

Liberal party members were called into a crisis meeting this morning, and heading in, the party leader Matthew Guy made no attempt to mask his feelings.

MATTHEW GUY: We are furious; we want our money back.

RACHAEL BROWN: The matter has been referred to the Victoria Police Fraud and Extortion Squad, which says it’s investigating the disappearance of funds, but can’t comment further.

Mr Guy says, if the allegations prove true, it’s a massive betrayal of trust.

MATTHEW GUY: An enormous part of our election war chest, enormous. People did a lot of work to get that. I mean, we have a fundraising team who’ve done a huge amount of work; they’re always under a lot of scrutiny as you can imagine, and a lot of pressure.

But they’ve done a huge amount of work. We’ve got a lot of supporters, a lot of branch people who have worked their guts out for this party. And for what it appears to be one individual to do this to us leaves us bitterly cold.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal party leader says the funds could’ve changed last year’s election result, which saw Labor’s Daniel Andrews dismissing the Napthine Coalition government.

Denis Napthine, who led the Victoria’s first one-term government in 60 years, says the fraud allegation is shocking and bitterly disappointing.

The party’s new president, Michael Kroger, has released a statement saying, when the audit turned up suspicious transactions amounting to $1.5 million between 2010 and 2014, Damien Mantach was asked to explain himself.

It was after this discussion that the party’s administrative committee voted to refer the matter to police.

Mr Kroger admits there’s a weakness with the Liberal Party’s checks and balances.

MICHAEL KROGER: Yeah, well on this occasion they clearly failed. So yep, quite up front about that. I’ve only been in the job four months, as you know. This has been going on for four years, so you know, it should have been picked up before and wasn’t, unfortunately.

RACHAEL BROWN: But he says there won’t be a clean out of branch holders, that the alleged fraud didn’t extend to other employees, officials or office bearers, and was limited to the party’s Melbourne headquarters.

He says civil action hasn’t been decided on.

MICHAEL KROGER: We’re sensitive to a number of issues, including the fact the person involved has a wife and family, and there are other matters which we want to take into account. But yes, we’ll be recovering a good deal of the funds in a cooperative relationship with the person involved.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Kroger says he doesn’t know where the money’s gone.

And he’s hit back at a suggestion that this is in a similar vein to the trade union boss Kathy Jackson being forced to repay $1.4 million of misappropriated members’ funds.

MICHAEL KROGER: When the Liberal party becomes aware of a serious matter like this, what do we do?

We investigate it quickly, we report it to the appropriate authorities, who in this case will be the Victoria Police. We don’t hide it; we don’t ignore it; we deal with it.

On the other hand, it’s taken a royal commission at massive public expense bringing these union and Labor leaders kicking and screaming before the public to get any type of information from them at all, at massive public expense. And even now they want to sack the umpire.

RACHAEL BROWN: One commentator has told The World Today that there might be more to this than meets the eye.

Damian Mantach stepped down from the director’s job in March. A couple of years ago he was one of the senior Liberals secretly recorded during the police command crisis that led to Ted Baillieu resigning as premier.

The commentator says this audit and slur on a former power player in the executive committee might have more to do with the ongoing power struggle and factional rifts at the upper levels of the Victorian Liberal party.

ELEANOR HALL: Rachael Brown with that report.


Damien Mantach embezzlement -Finger pointing begins over Liberals’ stolen cash


The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

Embezzlement allegation: The Liberal Party will have to rebuild trust

The Drum

Opinion

Fri 21 Aug 2015, 9:58am

It’s the thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members who should feel most outraged at the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of campaign funds. And the party hierarchy will have to work hard to earn their trust back, writes Terry Barnes.

The Victorian Liberal Party is in a state of deep shock after revelations its former state director, Damien Mantach, is accused of embezzling $1.5 million of party funds over a number of years.

While investigations are continuing, Victorian Liberal president, Michael Kroger, has emailed party members saying that Mantach is the only person in the frame, and all will be done to recover as much of the missing funds as possible.

It appears a breathtaking $1.5 million of party funds was diverted for personal benefit. Victorian Liberal parliamentary leader, Matthew Guy, said that what was taken was “a very significant portion of the money raised by the party in fundraising … People did a lot of work to get that. We all feel completely gutted and furious”.

There certainly will be former Victorian Liberal MPs closely defeated in last November’s state election whose anger will be, like Guy’s, white-hot, sharing his view that the missing funds could have saved their campaigns. Current marginal seat federal MPs will feel likewise. But having escaped with their parliamentary pensions or severance packages, they personally got off lightly.

What really angers and disappoints about Mantach’s alleged actions is that they were not really stealing from a mere corporate entity, the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia. Nor did they ruin the large corporate donors and high net worth individuals who donate to political parties, because that is part of what they do to build political networks, relationships and influence.

No, the grand embezzlement and the governance failures that allowed it to happen are above all an utter betrayal of, and insult to, thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members and supporters across Victoria who are not wealthy or personally powerful but are the soul of the party.

They’re the ones who turn out in all weather at election times to support MPs and candidates, door-knock, stuff letterboxes and talk up the Liberal cause to anyone who will listen.

They’re the ones who greet you at the polling booth on election days with a smile and a how-to-vote card, and look forward to bantering with voters and their counterparts from other parties.

They’re the ones who faithfully attend branch meetings, local party events, run the trivia and soup nights, and buy the tickets in the raffle that inevitably is a part of any political gathering – and donate back the prizes.

They’re the ones who drive up to hundreds of kilometres to attend party councils and pre-selection conventions.

They’re the ones who organise local electorate fundraising functions, work tirelessly to make them well-attended and successful, and cheerfully endure the proverbial rubber chicken and drinks at bar prices, because they buy their own tickets as well as sell them.

They’re the ones who pay membership subscriptions or respond to bigwigs’ circular appeals for donations. Many may not be able to afford to give much, but their trickles join to become a funding river for the party: a river, it seems, that can easily be dipped into by the unscrupulous.

And they’re the ones who are most entitled to feel gutted and angry at what has happened.

As a group, most ordinary members of the Liberal Party are older and more conservative than their MPs. They are often retired, and volunteer for party work because it gives them the satisfaction of furthering a cause, or an MP or candidate, they believe in passionately.

Others are young activists with stars in their eyes and idealism in their hearts.

Unlike the likes of Malcolm Turnbull, most Liberal rank-and-file members don’t have palatial mansions to go home to, nor much spare cash. Contrary to the Liberal silvertail image, many members and local Liberal supporters are students, pensioners or self-funded retirees on very modest incomes, and donate what they often can ill afford.

Yet they do so willingly and turn out for the party because they believe, as the Victorian Division’s website is bannered, that “The Liberal Party exists to provide high quality governments that empower people to solve the major challenges they face in their lives”.

This grassroots faith is what’s been shaken to its core by what has happened.

The Liberal organisation will recover and be reformed. As incoming Victorian president earlier this year, taking office just as Mantach left, Kroger was refreshingly open and honest with his members and the public as soon as the appalling situation was confirmed. That welcome candour is a good start to rebuilding trust in a crisis.

But just as with former Health Services Union leaders Craig Thomson, Michael Williamson and Kathy Jackson, this is yet another case of an elected or appointed official feeling somehow entitled to take advantage of the so-called “little people” who are their rank-and-file members, even though ultimately they owed everything to those they betrayed.

This week’s revelations, be they Mantach’s alleged activities or Jackson’s humiliation in court, should remind elected and appointed office holders in political parties and politically-active organisations alike that respecting the trust of their members and the public is fundamental to public life and a healthy democracy. Their position and status is a conferred privilege, not a personal fiefdom.

Fortunately, most of these office holders, across the political spectrum, work very hard to earn and retain that trust.

The Victorian Liberal Party will likely find, as the HSU has found, and indeed as federal MPs are finding with ongoing public anger over abused parliamentary “entitlements”, when the bond of trust with their ordinary members and supporters is broken, it is very, very hard to restore. But if it looks to its grass roots members, and respects and honours their values, aspirations and commitment in reforming its governance and accountability, the party will recover better and stronger for this scarifying experience.

Terry Barnes is a policy consultant, former senior Howard government adviser and member of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party. Twitter: @TerryBarnes5.

Click image below to enlarge

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.


abc.net.au

Tasmanian Liberals assure members former state director repaid all money

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:23pm

The Tasmanian Liberals have assured members the party is not affected by allegations former state director Damien Mantach stole $1.5 million from the election fund of the Victorian Liberal Party.

The police fraud squad is investigating the allegations against Mr Mantach, who served as state director in both Tasmania and Victoria.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle in Victoria.

Tasmanian Liberal Party president Geoff Page used Facebook to confirmed that Mr Mantach did owe the Tasmanian branch money in 2008.

“I have today been advised that Mr Mantach had in 2008 a liability for personal expenses to the Tasmanian division totalling $47,981.78, which was fully repaid by Mr Mantach to the division upon his departure in March of that year,” he said.

Mr Page went on to assure members he was confident no other funds had gone missing.

“As the debt was settled in full the Division considered the matter closed,” he said.

“The Tasmanian division has robust internal financial processes which, in keeping with our obligations to our membership have been periodically reviewed and continually improved since 2008 and are annually audited.”


abc.net.au

Police to investigate Liberal Party $1.5m embezzlement claims

By Jean Edwards

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:27pm

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle.

An audit of the party’s finances after last year’s state election loss uncovered unauthorised financial transactions linked to Mr Mantach, with money missing from both state and federal campaign funds.

The Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad has been called in to investigate.

Liberal Party president Michael Kroger said Mr Mantach had admitted to wrongdoing.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger said.

Key points:

  • Liberal Party accuses former state director of embezzling $1.5m
  • Alleged theft happened over four years
  • Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad called in to investigate
  • Party believes Mantach took the money to fund his lifestyle

He said the party believed Mr Mantach had acted alone.

“We’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all,” he said.

It also emerged that Mr Mantach repaid tens of thousands of dollars during his time as state director of the Tasmanian branch.

In a letter to members posted on Facebook, Tasmanian Liberal president Geoff Page said in March 2008 that when he left the role, Mr Mantach fully repaid a liability of nearly $48,000 for personal expenses.

Mr Page said the division considered the matter closed and had robust internal financial processes.

Mr Kroger said he did not believe the missing money influenced the 2014 election result, or that it would affect the next federal election.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy said the party was furious at what he called a “pretty basic effort at embezzlement”.

“We want our money back,” he said.

“We want this matter sent to the police and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done.

“I saw someone making a comment that we’re white hot with anger, that’s just the start of it.”

Mr Kroger said the missing money was confined to the party’s Victorian division and he was confident some of it could be recovered through assets bought with the funds.

Mr Kroger conceded the Liberal Party had failed to properly monitor spending.

“Obviously it should have been picked up years ago — it wasn’t,” he said.

Former premier Denis Napthine, who led the party during last year’s campaign, said he was surprised and bitterly disappointed by the allegations.

The party’s administrative committee met this morning to discuss how to deal with the missing money.

Mr Mantach has been contacted for comment.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 20/08/2015

Reporter: Madeleine Morris

Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blind-sided by claims a former Director stole $1.5 million of funds with the fraud squad investigating allegations and branch members asking if other financial dealings are suspect.

Transcript

SABRA LANE, PRESENTER: Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blindsided by allegations its former director stole $1.5 million of party funds.

The party believes Damian Mantach siphoned off the money using fake invoices and Victoria police is now investigating.

Liberal politicians are furious and say the loss is a slap in the face to party members.

Late today, the Tasmanian Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses he racked up while director of that state’s party.

Madeleine Morris reports.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER: We’re white hot with anger. That’s just the start of it.

DENIS NAPTHINE, FORMER VICTORIAN PREMIER: I’m surprised, I’m shocked, I’m bitterly disappointed.

MADELEINE MORRIS, REPORTER: Sombre-faced and genuinely shocked, Victorian Liberal MPs arrived this morning to be briefed on the alleged theft of $1.5 million by one of their own.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER II: We just want to get to the truth and the bottom of the matter.

MICHAEL KROGER, LIBERAL PARTY VIC. BRANCH: Good morning, everybody. Well as you know, the Liberal Party is today referring some matters to the Victoria Police relating to the unauthorised removal of some party funds from the party head office, solely the work of one person. It should’ve been detected a long time ago. It wasn’t, which is regrettable. And the party’s obviously gonna make sure that this never happens again.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That person is Damien Mantach, the Victorian Liberal Party’s state director until March this year. The party believes that over a period of four years, Damien Mantach siphoned off money from Victorian Liberal headquarters via fake invoices for fake work.

The irregularities were uncovered when new state Liberal president Michael Kroger ordered a forensic audit of the accounts when he took over after last year’s disastrous state election.

NICK ECONOMOU, POLITICAL ANALYST: The state Liberal Party is in a bit of trouble and it’s been subject to a great deal of internal tension. There’d been problems within the parliamentary wing of the party. That contributed of course to the Liberals’ defeat at the last state election. And we also know that there were all sorts of tensions in the party organisation, the party membership.

DENIS NAPTHINE: I’m absolutely devastated, but particularly for the candidates across the state of Victoria who worked extremely hard, for the Liberal Party members and volunteers who worked extremely hard. This is a real shock to all of us.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That includes Angelo Kakouros, chair of the party’s South Barwon branch. He’s been fielding calls from party members all day.

ANGELO KAKOUROS, CHAIR, LIBERAL PARTY SOUTH BARWON BRANCH: It is a lack of trust and great, great disappointment.

MADELEINE MORRIS: But Mr Kakouros says his branch has been worried about the former state director for some time.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: I’ve had concerns with Damien Mantach for the last three to four years as a state director and personal experience and just the way things have operated and the communication between Damien, the administrative committee and some of the people within the organisation with their communication here locally in our area.

NICK ECONOMOU: It’s a very, very big task to try and keep track of what’s going on and to keep paid full-time officials answerable and accountable in what is essentially a voluntary organisation. The state treasurer of the Liberal Party would be a volunteer after all. Now, on top of this we’re getting increasing regulation to try and regulate the flow of donations. … But I suspect that that may be encouraging clever people to be a bit tricky here and try and find ways to squirrel resources away.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, Michael Kroger admitted there was a systemic problem with the Liberal Party accounting and changes were being made.

MICHAEL KROGER: More people in the accounting section and different oversights in relation to levels of authorised expenditure and a greater role for the party finance committee and more attention on these matters by the party executive.

MADELEINE MORRIS: It’s not the first time Damien Mantach has been in the headlines. Two years ago, he was investigated and ultimately cleared over payments he authorised to a former Liberal staffer who quit after being implicated in a scandal that snared the Police Minister.

And late today, the Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay nearly $48,000 in personal expenses when he was Tasmanian branch state director.

The fallout today extended all the way from Spring Street to Canberra.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, FEDERAL LABOR MP: In 2013 the Prime Minister said, and I quote, “I know Damien Mantach well. He’s a person of integrity. So let’s see where this investigation goes. He has my confidence.” Does the Prime Minister agree that this ringing endorsement is yet another failure of judgment on his part?

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: But I can inform the House that matters concerning the individual in question have this morning been referred to the Victorian Police.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, no answer at the Mantach family home and Damien Mantach couldn’t be reached on the phone.

There is palpable shock here in Victoria that this could’ve happened to the party which prides itself on good financial management, particularly amongst Liberal rank and file. One branch chair told me it was like finding out the priest had been stealing from the collection plate. But there’s also relief it’s been uncovered by the party’s new state leadership.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: Michael Kroger, the state president, he’s doing a fantastic job in order to bring honesty and transparency back into the party.

MADELEINE MORRIS: The impact for the party may yet be felt in the place it will hurt most: the coffers.

NICK ECONOMOU: The Liberal Party really does rely heavily on membership fees and donations, so I think something that might damage the reputation of the party’s fundraising ability could be really seriously damaging to the Liberal Party.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER III: I think this is simply a matter of we’ve been robbed. We want our money back and we want justice done. Police will investigate and i think that’s all I should say at this point in time.

SABRA LANE: Madeleine Morris reporting.


Rachael Brown reported this story on Thursday, August 20, 2015 12:20:47

 abc.net.au

 Fmr Vic Liberal state director accused of stealing $1.5m from party over four years
 TRANSCIPT

ELEANOR HALL: Let’s go now to Victoria where that state’s branch of the Liberal Party is having some trouble of its own.

The Liberal leader Matthew Guy has accused the former state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Damien Mantach, of embezzling $1.5 million in the election campaign funds.

Mr Guy says his party is “white hot” with anger, and that the funds could’ve made a difference in last year’s election.

In Melbourne, Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal Party says discrepancies were uncovered during a forensic audit of the party’s funds after last year’s state election loss.

The party’s former state director Damien Mantach is being accused of stealing $1.5 million over four years, but the audit continues.

Mr Mantach has not responded to the ABC’s calls.

Liberal party members were called into a crisis meeting this morning, and heading in, the party leader Matthew Guy made no attempt to mask his feelings.

MATTHEW GUY: We are furious; we want our money back.

RACHAEL BROWN: The matter has been referred to the Victoria Police Fraud and Extortion Squad, which says it’s investigating the disappearance of funds, but can’t comment further.

Mr Guy says, if the allegations prove true, it’s a massive betrayal of trust.

MATTHEW GUY: An enormous part of our election war chest, enormous. People did a lot of work to get that. I mean, we have a fundraising team who’ve done a huge amount of work; they’re always under a lot of scrutiny as you can imagine, and a lot of pressure.

But they’ve done a huge amount of work. We’ve got a lot of supporters, a lot of branch people who have worked their guts out for this party. And for what it appears to be one individual to do this to us leaves us bitterly cold.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal party leader says the funds could’ve changed last year’s election result, which saw Labor’s Daniel Andrews dismissing the Napthine Coalition government.

Denis Napthine, who led the Victoria’s first one-term government in 60 years, says the fraud allegation is shocking and bitterly disappointing.

The party’s new president, Michael Kroger, has released a statement saying, when the audit turned up suspicious transactions amounting to $1.5 million between 2010 and 2014, Damien Mantach was asked to explain himself.

It was after this discussion that the party’s administrative committee voted to refer the matter to police.

Mr Kroger admits there’s a weakness with the Liberal Party’s checks and balances.

MICHAEL KROGER: Yeah, well on this occasion they clearly failed. So yep, quite up front about that. I’ve only been in the job four months, as you know. This has been going on for four years, so you know, it should have been picked up before and wasn’t, unfortunately.

RACHAEL BROWN: But he says there won’t be a clean out of branch holders, that the alleged fraud didn’t extend to other employees, officials or office bearers, and was limited to the party’s Melbourne headquarters.

He says civil action hasn’t been decided on.

MICHAEL KROGER: We’re sensitive to a number of issues, including the fact the person involved has a wife and family, and there are other matters which we want to take into account. But yes, we’ll be recovering a good deal of the funds in a cooperative relationship with the person involved.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Kroger says he doesn’t know where the money’s gone.

And he’s hit back at a suggestion that this is in a similar vein to the trade union boss Kathy Jackson being forced to repay $1.4 million of misappropriated members’ funds.

MICHAEL KROGER: When the Liberal party becomes aware of a serious matter like this, what do we do?

We investigate it quickly, we report it to the appropriate authorities, who in this case will be the Victoria Police. We don’t hide it; we don’t ignore it; we deal with it.

On the other hand, it’s taken a royal commission at massive public expense bringing these union and Labor leaders kicking and screaming before the public to get any type of information from them at all, at massive public expense. And even now they want to sack the umpire.

RACHAEL BROWN: One commentator has told The World Today that there might be more to this than meets the eye.

Damian Mantach stepped down from the director’s job in March. A couple of years ago he was one of the senior Liberals secretly recorded during the police command crisis that led to Ted Baillieu resigning as premier.

The commentator says this audit and slur on a former power player in the executive committee might have more to do with the ongoing power struggle and factional rifts at the upper levels of the Victorian Liberal party.

ELEANOR HALL: Rachael Brown with that report.



news.com.au

Finger pointing begins over Liberals’ stolen cash

http://www.news.com.au/video/id-NwMjY0dzqkwzxK6FCG9JiP2ATp0m5WyG/Police-to-investigate-alleged-Vic-Lib-fraud

Vic detectives will investigate the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of Liberal party funds.

Victorian detectives will investigate the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of Liberal

Victorian detectives will investigate the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of Liberal party funds by former state director Damien Mantach. Source: AAP

VICTORIA’S Liberal Party didn’t lose the 2014 election because its then state director stole $1.5 million from campaign funds, current state president Michael Kroger says.

Former Victorian Liberal director Damien Mantach has admitted to stealing money from the party over a four-year period going into the state election.

On a bad day for Mr Mantach, his Liberal Party email address was also found in the leaked Ashley Madison database, although there is no evidence he specifically signed up to the site.

Mr Mantach, who was on a $200,000-a-year salary, allegedly used the money to pay his mortgage, fund his lifestyle and build a half-a-million dollar share portfolio, the Herald Sun reports.

When asked about the alleged theft, his wife Jodie Mantach told the paper she no longer wants “anything to do with him”.

Mr Kroger said the party did not lose the election because of a lack of funds.

“The ability of the party to continue to operate and fund its campaigns has not been compromised,” a party statement said.

Mr Kroger said the party was strengthening its financial controls after the details of the theft became clear.

The $1.5 million theft has been referred to Victoria Police and Mr Kroger is hopeful some of it can be recovered.

The Ocean Grove home owned by former Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach.

The Ocean Grove home owned by former Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach. Source: News Corp Australia

The Liberals’ Tasmanian division president Geoff Page later confirmed Mr Mantach’s history of questionable spending dating back to 2008.

Mr Mantach repaid almost $50,000 in “personal expenses” before leaving his position with the Tasmanian branch to move to Victoria. “Mr Mantach had in 2008 a liability for personal expenses to the Tasmanian division totalling $47,981.78, which was fully repaid by Mr Mantach to the division upon his departure in March of that year,” Mr Page said in a post on the Tasmanian Liberals’ Facebook page.

Finger pointing has begun within the party, with the Liberals’ federal director — and husband of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief-of-staff, Peta Credlin — Brian Loughnane reportedly being blamed for his appointment.

A RORTER’S DREAM JOB

As state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Mr Mantach’s role was a rorter’s dream.

He had the final say on budget line items, such as polling research, that the party treasurer was not allowed to see. It allowed him to bill the party with invoices — some created on his work computer — for jobs that did not exist.

Mr Mantach resigned after the 2014 state election loss but had to face the music on Monday when the party’s lawyers called him to a meeting.

His lawyer arrived on Tuesday in an attempt to cut a deal when the party thought he had stolen around $800,000.

The Liberals wanted complete disclosure and Mr Mantach allegedly spent hours with officials on Wednesday explaining the full extent of his theft.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger told reporters on Thursday.

“It appears it was only Damien involved. If the police find others, fine, but we’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all.” Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy said members were “gutted” after raising funds for the state and federal election campaigns. “The party is furious, we want our money back, we want this matter sent to the police, and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done,” he said.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission was called on to examine secret phone recordings of senior Liberal figures in 2013, including Mr Mantach, though it was found an investigation was not warranted.

“I know Damien Mantach well. He is a person of integrity. So let’s see where this investigation goes. He has my confidence,” Tony Abbott said at the time when he was opposition leader.

Asked about the $1.5 million theft on Thursday, Prime Minister Abbott said it was a matter for the Victorian division of the party.

Mr Mantach did not respond to attempts to contact him on yesterday.

Victoria Police have launched an investigation.

The Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and husband Brian Loughnane. The Liberal

The Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and husband Brian Loughnane. The Liberal Party’s federal director is being blamed for appointing Mr Mentach. Source: News Corp Australia