Member for Terrigal Mr Chris Hartcher appeared before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) over two days, May 19 and 20, as part of Operation Spicer, an investigation into allegations that members of parliament and others corruptly solicited, received and concealed payments in return for
having their interests favoured.
Mr Hartcher was questioned in relation to a man named John Caputo whom he said he knew through the Liberal Party. Mr Hartcher claimed not to recall a phone call to Hartcher Reid Solicitors which ICAC Counsel Assisting Geoffrey Watson SC suggested led to having three cheques from Caputo deposited into their trust account. “In this respect I have deﬁnitely tried to stretch my memory because it’s been an embarrassment for me involving my own family ﬁ rm, or my former family ﬁrm,” said Mr Hartcher.“But I do not recall it.” He failed to recall receiving cheques from Mr Caputo worth around $5,000-$6,000 following a fundraiser at the Sheraton, as outlined in earlier evidence given by Caputo.
“I’m not denying it,” said Hartcher.“I just don’t recall it.“ It was not, it was not my usual practice to receive cheques.” He also failed to recall whether he received cheques at his electorate ofﬁce from Mr Caputo, as stated by Caputo in his earlier testimony. He said he couldn’t recall seeing the cheques at all when asked if he gave Member for The Entrance Mr Chris Spence the cheques, despite some of them turning up in the account of The Entrance SEC. Hartcher denied receiving $4,000 from Ray Carter, despite Mr Carter previously giving sworn testimony that he gave $4,000 to Mr Hartcher on his instruction.
Mr Hartcher also denied telling Mr Carter to give false evidence at ICAC, again despite Mr Carter giving sworn testimony to the contrary.Mr Hartcher rejected the claim by Mr Watson that he pocketed that $4,000.“I reject it absolutely,” said Mr Hartcher.Mr Hartcher and Mr Watson then proceeded to yell at each other before the commissioner told everyone to “just back off right now”.Mr Hartcher also denied laundering the $4,000 through his nephew, Sebastian Reid’s, trust account. He also denied using Mickey Tech, a company associated with former employee Ray Carter’s partner Mr Eak, as a means of washing donations from prohibited donors, as well as being instrumental in setting up Eightbyﬁve and using the Free Enterprise Foundation to wash funds.
Mr Hartcher could not explain why $2,000 was deposited into his account on January 24, 2011, by EightbyFive and said he saw no reason why he would receive any money from Eightbyﬁve or Tim Koelma personally.He also denied being instrumental in the creation of Eightbyﬁve.“I had no, no involvement in the actual creation of Eightbyﬁve,” said Hartcher.Mr Watson accused Hartcher of “bunging this on…you’re conveniently hiding behind ‘I don’t recall’ when it suits you”.Hartcher denied being involved in organising payments for company Gazcorp from its inception.
He also denied the suggestion by Mr Watson that he was at the heart of a corrupt scheme to extract donations from a prohibited donor and wash them through EightbyFive after he agreed to chasing up invoices on behalf of Mr Tim Koelma.He rejected Mr Watson’s suggestion that he was “chasing up the money, the money which was going to ﬁlter through to ﬁnance, in this instance Darren Webber’s ability to campaign”. He denied claims that the purpose behind Eightbyﬁve was to fund Tim Koelma to come back to work for him on a full time basis, so he could fund Chris Spence and Darren Webber in their respective seats so they’d be free to campaign and to avoid the property developer prohibition.
He also denied receiving any professional beneﬁts as a result of Eightbyﬁve receiving consulting fees from time to time on a monthly basis from Australia Water Holdings between late March 2009 and just after the 2011 State Election. Hartcher agreed that when he looked over the agreement between EightbyFive and Australian Water Holdings for Tim Koelma and suggested a strict conﬁdentiality clause, he knew it would protect information, such as what Eightbyﬁve was actually going to be doing for Australian Water Holdings.
But he denied wanting to ensure that there was a degree of secrecy about what Koelma was actually doing on behalf of Australian Water Holdings and that that was his motivation for suggesting the conﬁdentiality clause. Proceedings for Operation Spicer will resume in August. Mr Hartcher has not been excused from the summons.
May 2014, ICAC