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ICAC: Suspended MP Darren Webber fails to show evidence of work for Eightbyfive

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Kate McClymont, Michaela Whitbourn

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Darren Webber arrives at ICAC

RAW VISION: suspended Liberal MP Darren Webber enters the Independent Commission Against Corruption to give evidence on Monday morning.

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Suspended Liberal MP Darren Webber has claimed he did tens of thousands of dollars in "work" for a company at the centre of a corruption inquiry but he has no records and did not lodge tax returns until after investigators came knocking.

Mr Webber, the member for the central coast seat of Wyong, told the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Monday that he "collated" press releases for Eightbyfive, a company set up by former Liberal staffer Tim Koelma.

He said he had no record of the work because he simply printed out the releases and handed them to Mr Koelma, a former adviser to energy minister Chris Hartcher who ran the company.

Darren Webber enters ICAC to give evidence on Monday.

Darren Webber enters ICAC to give evidence on Monday. Photo: Nick Moir

He added that his computer hard drive failed in "late 2010, early 2011", in evidence reminiscent of his colleague and fellow central coast MP Chris Spence.

"I don't suppose you kept any appointments or anything like that in your mobile phone diary?" Commissioner Megan Latham asked.

Mr Webber said he "would have" but "I change mobile phones every year and I made the jump from Nokia to Apple and all the files on Nokia are lost".

"Again we're left in the unfortunate position where there isn't one record on paper or in electronic form which can verify what you're saying, is that right Mr Webber?" counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, asked.

"In the face of the current accusations, it's incredibly unfortunate, yes," Mr Webber said.

The ICAC is investigating allegations that Eightbyfive was a "sham" company set up to channel illegal donations from developers and other sources to Liberal Party candidates before the last state election. Mr Webber was paid about $50,000 by the company.

Mr Hartcher, who is expected to give evidence later on Monday, was allegedly the "mastermind" of the scheme.

Mr Webber told the ICAC said that he had to "re-construct" the invoices he claimed to have sent Mr Koelma because he regularly replaced his computers and one had failed.

"The hard drive failed in late 2010, early 2011,"  Mr Webber said.

He said that "at that stage, before knowing this shindig was going to start" the cost of repairing it with no guarantee of recovery seemed prohibitive.

Mr Watson noted that Mr Webber did not submit tax returns for most of the payments until April this year, "after all these issues were raised with you by ICAC".

Mr Webber said that Mr Koelma did not have copies of those invoices because of a flood in his garage in 2011.

Mr Webber's "re-constructed" invoices to Eightbyfive suggested that the services Mr Webber was providing to Mr Koelma was for "IT and electrotechnology advice". Mr Webber told the commission that this was a "mistake".

He also admitted that he never qualified as a electrician but Mr Webber maintained he was still able to provide "limited" electrotechnology advice.

"Your are making this up",  Mr Watson suggested to Mr Webber. 

"Making what up?" replied Mr Webber. "Your evidence!" said Mr Watson in frustration.

The inquiry also heard that there was only one entry in Mr Webber's 2010 diary which referred to work Mr Webber had done for Mr Koelma.

That entry, dated 18 May, 2010, referred to Mr Webber "storage shed sorting with Tim". 

When Mr Watson suggested that sorting a shed did not seem to involve offering political advice, Mr Webber maintained he would have offered political advice "before or after the shed."

 

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