ICAC: Let the evidence come out
RAW VISION: Australian Water Holdings director Nick di Girolamo arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Monday morning. Nine News.PT0M35S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36mms 620 349 April 14, 2014
The former managing partner of a Sydney law firm was accused of being an ''old-fashioned shyster fraudster'' and a ''bare-faced liar'' who created sham documents to ''trick'' a corruption inquiry.
Nick Di Girolamo, 44, was the managing partner at Colin Biggers & Paisley until February 2007, when he joined a water infrastructure company now being investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The first question put to Mr Di Girolamo was whether he ''immediately formed the view that you would milk it, milk it and get every cent you could get out of Sydney Water … isn't that right?''
Giving evidence: Nick Di Girolamo. Photo: Kate Geraghty
The inquiry heard that Mr Di Girolamo used his legal skills to exploit a loophole in the contract between Australian Water Holdings and Sydney Water, which was paying it to provide infrastructure to the north-west.
It heard that AWH, which was a non-profit company before Mr Di Girolamo's arrival, refused to provide Sydney Water with any breakdown of its bills.
One of the first things Mr Di Girolamo did was to give himself and the other directors massive salaries, which were billed back to Sydney Water. Apart from his own salary of $1.1 million, plus a ''sign on'' fee of $250,000, another director, John Rippon, had his salary increased by $1 million to a total of $1.7 million.
Mr Di Girolamo was grilled about billing the government-owned utility for expenses that had nothing to do with the provision of water services. These included double-billing Sydney Water for the legal fees of law firm Allens, which was providing advice to AWH about how it could sue Sydney Water.
The inquiry heard that AWH billed Sydney Water for expenses such as $76,000 in donations to the NSW Liberal Party, $9000 for a 2GB advertisement read by Alan Jones, $2200 to the Italian Chamber of Commerce for a gala ball, $15,000 for a Balmain Tigers dinner, $17,000 per month for lobbyists, $885 chauffeur-driven limousines for Mr Di Girolamo and Eddie Obeid jnr, a $300 wedding present for an employee, as well as lunches, dinners and expenses related to the attempted expansion of AWH into Queensland.
Mr Di Girolamo said the bills were ''mistakes'', except for the wedding present, which he classified as an office expense.
''It's funding aspects of a lifestyle - limousines here, limousines there, big lunches here, big lunches there, donations to organisations, big-noting yourself, all at the expense of Sydney Water wasn't it?'' asked counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson, SC. ''No, it was not,'' Mr Di Girolamo replied.
''And tell me, if that was done intentionally you'd agree it was a fraud wouldn't you?'' put Mr Watson. ''Absolutely,'' Mr Di Girolamo said.
In other evidence, Mr Di Girolamo was asked why a lawyer of his experience would claim that a document detailing the sale of shares for $3 million to a company controlled by the family of corrupt Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid was a personal ''loan'' from Eddie Obeid jnr.
Mr Watson pointed out that the word ''loan'' did not appear in the document, nor did any interest rate or repayment of the principal.
Mr Di Girolamo denied that a later document signed by him and Eddie Obeid jnr was created to hide the Obeids' links with AWH.