THREE former officers of Wagonga Local Aboriginal Land Council could face prosecution following a finding by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that they had engaged in corrupt conduct.
ICAC found that former Wagonga LALC decision-makers Ron Mason, Ken Foster and Vanessa Mason engaged in corrupt conduct by accepting close to $200,000 in “payments and other financial benefits” in regard to Wagona LALC vested properties in 2005.
Mr Mason is a previous Wagonga LALC chairperson, Mr Foster was formerly Wagonga LALC coordinator, and Ms Mason is a former Wagonga LALC chairperson and CEO.
The findings are contained in the report of a public inquiry held by the commission in February, and which was released last week.
The ICAC report also says that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions with respect to the prosecution of Mr Mason, Mr Foster, and Ms Mason for various offences.
ICAC also has found that businessman Fortunato (Lucky) Gattellari similarly engaged in corrupt conduct and that businessman and developer Ron Medich engaged in corrupt conduct by facilitating some of the payments.
According to the ICAC report, Mr Gattellari was contacted in 2005 by Ron Binge, a previous work associate, with a proposal to develop land vested in LALCs.
Mr Binge is an Aboriginal man who, the report says, conceived an idea of approaching LALCs with proposals to develop their land, as he had connections within LALC networks.
Mr Gattellari subsequently approached Mr Medich for funding. The commission accepted that Mr Medich was told by Mr Binge that payments would need to be made to decision-makers within the LALCs in order to secure land deals.
The commission found that Mr Gattellari made payments and provided other financial benefits to Mr Mason totalling about $38,300, and to Mr Foster totalling $31,300, to help facilitate negotiations relating to a joint venture agreement between the Wagonga LALC and the Medich Group.
It found Mr Gattellari also made payments to Ms Mason totalling about $127,746 to facilitate negotiations between the Wagonga LALC and his company, Water View Developments Pty Ltd, in relation to proposed long-term leases.
Corruption findings were made against Mr Mason and Mr Foster for accepting the payments and other financial benefits as an inducement and reward for using their positions on the Wagonga LALC to facilitate and assist negotiations with the Medich Group in relation to the joint venture.
Ms Mason was found to have engaged in corrupt conduct by accepting the payments made to her and her company as a reward using her position on the Wagonga LALC to facilitate negotiations between the LALC and Water View Developments.
Mr Medich was found to have engaged in corrupt conduct by facilitating the provision of financial benefits to the Wagonga LALC decision-makers.
The commission has also made three corruption prevention recommendations to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and the government generally, including that the minister considers a review of the operation of Part 10 of the Aboriginal Lands Right Act 1983 in meeting the expectations of the lands right network by excluding individuals who have been found to have engaged in corrupt conduct or in serious misconduct for a period of up to five years.