The former union official at the centre of allegations of bribery in the Canberra construction sector says secretly recorded phone conversations in which he discussed a contractor's debts were just part of an elaborate ruse.
Halafihi "Fihi" Kivalu, who is a former ACT Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union organiser, is alleged to have solicited and pocketed thousands of dollars in bribes.
Fairfax Media can also reveal Mr Kivalu was president of the ALP's Dickson-Morning sub-branch at the time he was allegedly involved in corruption.
He appeared before the royal commission into unions hearing in Canberra on Thursday and admitted he took money from a subcontractor to help him win work. But he has denied he demanded the money or could guarantee contracts.
Mr Kivalu was also played tape recordings of phone conversations with his wife and with formwork subcontractor Elias Taleb. Mr Taleb has alleged he paid Mr Kivalu $50,000 to win a contract to work on a Yarralumla building site.
Counsel assisting the commission, Jeremy Stoljar, put it to Mr Kivalu the recordings proved he was giving false evidence under oath.
Mr Kivalu denied this, saying the phone calls had been part of an elaborate ruse to pay back Mr Taleb who he said had been blackmailing him.
The commission heard a tape recording of a conversation between Mr Kivalu and Mr Taleb on April 10 this year.
Mr Kivalu had just denied pressuring Mr Taleb over payments he had agreed to make in return for Mr Kivalu's assistance with obtaining work.
Mr Taleb protested angrily about the amount of money Mr Kivalu claimed he was owed - about $100,000 saying he could not understand how it had been calculated.
Mr Kivalu, who initially said he didn't want to discuss the payments over the phone, said the debt - at that stage of $85,000 - was for the Morris and Yarralumla jobs.
Mr Taleb put it to Mr Kivalu that he was also after money for "the Denham job".
"Remember, we agreed on f---ing 50 grand for the Morris job ... and then you know, the other 50 grand was coming from, sorry, it wasn't 50 grand, I think it was 40 or 35, was coming from the Yarralumla job that you still haven't paid."
He also indicated the arrangement with Mr Taleb was a longstanding one.
"Elias, Elias, you haven't given me a lot of money. If you'd given me a lot of money the 85 would have been paid off. Look, we're talking about something that we ... this is not new to us. We've been talking about this for f---ing years," he said.
In the hearing, Mr Stoljar put it to Mr Kivalu that despite his earlier denials, he had demanded money off Mr Taleb for helping him secure the Morris job.
"Yeah, but that's all a lie. When my relationship with Elias went sour, he tried to blackmail me to my boss, Dean Hall [the ACT secretary of the CFMEU], so I decided to give back to Elias his own medicine with always manipulation and all his lies," he said.
Mr Stoljar said, "You are just inventing this evidence as you go along?"
Mr Kivalu said, "I am just telling you the truth."
In one of the other conversations played to the hearing, Mr Kivalu told his wife that Mr Taleb needed more time to pay $100,000.
In another tape recording, made on June 6 this year, Mrs Kivalu said her son, Josh, had agreed to take over the Taleb debt.
Mrs Kivalu said, "I've told whoever he needs to get involved, it's gone up ... and it is a 50-50 split with whoever gets it."
Mrs Kivalu said she wanted Mr Taleb to be put under pressure.
"I don't care how much it is, it's 100 now," she said.
"I told Josh whoever does it, whether it is his Russian friends from Sydney, the Lebanese; I don't care who it is. Don't worry about talking to him ... he thinks he's smart, he thinks he's untouchable... He just needs to feel the stress and the thing we've felt waiting for him all this time."
Mr Kivalu had earlier expressed concern his behaviour might be considered criminal.
"Well technically he - he - he - doesn't owe me anything. He can, in court or in front of the union, say he doesn't owe me anything," he said.
Mrs Kivalu said, "We're not talking about the union, this deal wasn't made with the union or anyone else."
"Oh, you are, you are such a thing, you're such an easy target for people... I think you're giving him too much credit..."
Mr Kivalu defended himself.
"What else can I do? Because I organised a crime and it comes back to bite us up in the arse? if I'm behind bars because I've organised people... You make it like it is easy. It's not easy man. People don't owe anyone anything unless it is on paper."
Mrs Kivalu wasn't impressed.
"Well, if you're alright with it, if you're all right with him abusing you and calling you a fat f--- and everything else, and you're still alright with it, then that's..."
The hearing continues.