In the spotlight: Best friends Joe Tripodi (left) and David Tanevski, far right. Photo: Brendan Esposito
NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson says he has no idea who was behind the mysterious British Virgin Islands entity which bankrolled a private company in which he was a director.
Hoping to make a motza out of the dotcom boom, Getonboard was established in 2000 as a joint venture between the Labor Party, Unions NSW and David Tanevski, a former ALP branch stacker and best friend of controversial Labor powerbroker Joe Tripodi.
Mr Robertson said he had no duty ... to alert a probity auditor.
Also involved in the deal to tap into the unions' database to sell computer and internet packages to the members was the property developer Allen Linz.
Under scrutiny: The sale of Currawong. Photo: Paul Miller
A further spotlight on commercial dealings involving NSW Labor is an unwelcome distraction for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. NSW Labor is already on the nose with voters after the explosive revelations surrounding the millions of dollars the family of powerbroker Eddie Obeid received from a government coal tender presided over by then resources minister Ian Macdonald.
This week Mr Robertson said he had no duty when head of Unions NSW to alert a probity auditor about the Getonboard business associations between himself, Mr Linz and Mr Tanevski. A conflict of interest was raised over Mr Robertson's later sale of the union-owned cottages Currawong to Mr Linz, in a deal brokered by Mr Tanevski.
''It would be highly inappropriate to alter a report of an independent probity auditor," Mr Robertson said in an emailed response about whether he had alerted the probity auditor of the trio's previous involvement in Getonboard.
NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson.
Getonboard was the brainchild of Mr Tanevski, then Labor Council boss Michael Costa and then party chieftain Eric Roozendaal. Mr Robertson was a director for four years from 2001.
Getonboard, run from Mr Tanevski's Martin Place office, was a private company with only five shareholders: the Australian Labor Party (NSW) Branch Gifts, the Labor Council, two companies associated with Mr Tanevski, Mr Linz and businessman Michael Braham and, finally, the mysterious Good Century Assets Ltd, which lists its address as PO Box 957, Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI).
New details about BVI companies have surfaced in the leaked cache of secret tax haven data that have rocked the world of private banking in the past few months.
But none of the Getonboard's directors contacted by Fairfax Media, including Mr Roozendaal, his alternate director Mark Arbib, Mr Costa or Mr Robertson claimed to have any idea of the identity of the secret company bankrolling their business.
"Company directors are rightly expected to fulfil their duties with the utmost care and due diligence, but this does not - and in many instances - simply cannot extend to the undertaking of extensive inquiries into whoever has purchased shares in their company,'' Mr Robertson said in an emailed response to Fairfax Media.
He suggested that questions about Good Century ''should be directed to the company itself.'' This is impossible due to the secrecy provisions of companies domiciled in offshore tax havens.
This year, the veil of secrecy was partially lifted from offshore banking after a massive leak of data to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which exposed politicians, celebrities and even suburban accountants who were benefiting from offshore companies registered in zero tax rate jurisdictions.
Other directors of Getonboard included Mr Tanevski's business partners Mr Braham, who was later appointed by Mr Costa to the Sydney Ports Authority, and Mr Linz, who later bought Currawong from Unions NSW.
Mr Braham said he had no idea who was behind Good Century but suggested that because of its name ''it sounds like [the] Labor Party.''
Mr Tanevski also claimed no knowledge of the matter. ''I do not know who the shareholders or officers of the Great Century Assets were,'' he said in an email. He suggested the capital invested in Getonboard came from Hong Kong.
Despite the millions of dollars in capital, some of which came from Good Century, Getonboard was a failure.
While Mr Tanevski claimed to have no idea about who was behind Good Century, he did not reply to further questions about another of his companies, KWC Capital Partners, which was also half-owned by a BVI company, Shine Gate Investments, which shares the same post box in the offshore tax haven as Good Century. The other half of KWC was owned by Mr Linz, who did not return Fairfax Media's calls.
KWC Capital Partners and its sole director Mr Tanevski were at the centre of a furore in early 2007 when it emerged that Mr Robertson, then head of Unions NSW, had engaged Mr Tanevski's firm KWC Capital Partners to handle the sale of Currawong. And the buyer was Mr Tanveski's business partner Allen Linz.
Election Funding Authority records reveal KWC Capital Partners donated $45,000 to NSW Labor between 2003 and 2007.
In the wake of critical stories including that Mr Linz's offer of $15 million for Currawong was half that of other offers, Mr Robertson appointed Rory O'Connor to do a probity report on the sale.
Mr O'Connor was routinely called upon to sprinkle holy water over some of the most contentious decisions of the NSW Labor government including the sale of Doyles Creek training mine by Mr Macdonald to his friend the union-boss John Maitland.
The report, which has been obtained by Fairfax Media, shows that Mr Robertson specifically asked Mr O'Connor to review the relationship between KWC Capital Partners, Mr Tanevski and Mr Linz.
Mr O'Connor's report failed to ascertain that Mr Linz owned 50 per cent of the very company engaged to broker the sale - a fact easily unearthed by an ASIC company search.
No attempt was made to find who was behind the mysterious BVI company Shine Gate Investments and the probity auditor also failed to note that Mr Linz, Mr Tanevski and Mr Robertson had been in business together with Getonboard.
Mr O'Connor has previously defended this report as having been conducted in ''good faith''.
The Currawong deal came under further scrutiny in late 2011 when the Independent Commission against Corruption found that in the dying days of the Labor government in March 2011, the Land department chief, Warwick Watkins, and planning minister Tony Kelly had acted corruptly in backdating a letter to allow Mr Linz to sell Currawong to the government.
Although Mr Robertson defended the 2007 sale to Mr Linz as being unconditional, the ICAC inquiry revealed that apart from an initial deposit of $1.5 million, Unions NSW never received the claimed $15 million.
Title deeds show that Mr Linz's company paid $9.5 million for Currawong in early 2011 and, less than two months later, the government - through Watkins - bought it for $12.2 million.
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