Suspended Liberal MP Bart Bassett asked for illegal developer donations, ICAC hears

Evidence contradicted: suspended Liberal MP Bart Bassett. Photo: Daniel Munoz/Getty Images

Evidence contradicted: suspended Liberal MP Bart Bassett. Photo: Daniel Munoz/Getty Images

A corruption inquiry has heard devastating evidence that suspended Liberal MP Bart Bassett asked a property development company linked to Nathan Tinkler to make illegal donations to his election campaign.

Mark Regent, who managed projects for Mr Tinkler's company Buildev, told the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Wednesday that Mr Bassett came to see him before the March 2011 election to ask for financial support.

His evidence contradicts Mr Bassett's emphatic claims that he was kept at "arm's length" from funding for his campaign and was not aware of any donations from the company.

"I trusted [Liberal Party] head office to manage the process," Mr Bassett said on Wednesday.

Advertisement 

Appearing after Mr Bassett, Mr Regent said the then Liberal candidate "came to my office to talk about campaign funds...[and] to ask us for us for assistance".

"In broad terms, he was talking about the difficulty of election funding," he said.

Mr Regent said Mr Bassett asked if there was "any way" Buildev could support his campaign.

"I said, 'we can't', and then he said, 'do you think you might be able to speak to Darren [Williams, the co-founder of Buildev],'" Mr Regent said.

He said he believed he passed on a message to Mr Williams and he received a response "along the lines of 'Bart's OK', or something had happened".

Mr Bassett called some time later and said, "can you thank Darren for the support", he added.

The ICAC has heard that Buildev arranged for an $18,000 donation to be made to Mr Bassett's election campaign, in breach of laws passed in NSW in 2009 banning donations from developers. 

The money was paid by Mr Tinkler's company Boardwalk Resources to an alleged Liberal Party front organisation called the Free Enterprise Foundation in late 2010 and was later channelled into Mr Bassett's campaign account.

Giving evidence earlier on Wednesday, Mr Bassett said he could not explain the $18,000 donation.

"I didn't operate the account; I didn't have any knowledge of it," Mr Bassett said.

Mr Regent said he had several discussions with Mr Bassett, the former mayor of Hawkesbury and the member for the western Sydney seat of Londonderry, about donations to assist the Liberal Party between 2007 and 2010.

"I believed they were for the Liberal Party which he was representing," he said.

Mr Bassett's lawyer Matthew Dicker accused Mr Regent of lying to the commission.

"This conversation never occurred did it, Mr Regent?" he asked of the alleged meeting in which Mr Bassett asked for financial support.

"It occurred," Mr Regent replied.

Mr Bassett agreed that Buildev executives landed a helicopter in his yard for a "private" meeting in 2007 when he was mayor of Hawkesbury.

"Did you see any problem with meeting at your house?" Mr Bassett's lawyer asked.

"No, I didn't, because it was just a meet and greet," he said.

Mr Bassett, a helicopter pilot, added it was convenient because he had facilities at his house for landing the aircraft.

He insisted that Buildev did not have a development application with the council at the time.

Counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, alleged that Mr Bassett subsequently made decisions "greatly to [Buildev's] financial benefit" around the time the company made donations to him.

But Mr Bassett said that he was kept at "arm's length" of the funding for his campaign and was not aware of any payments by the company.

Buildev made a $23,500 donation to Mr Bassett in 2008, a year before the ban on developer donations came into effect.

Evidence suggests the money was set aside and used on the MP's 2011 campaign.

Mr Bassett admitted he used his casting vote as mayor to support a nursing home proposal by Buildev in September 2009.

He also supported a controversial housing development in North Richmond.

"My voting was based on the issue at hand ... nothing to do with the landowner," Mr Bassett said.

He denied ever receiving a bribe, a donation or a benefit from Buildev.

UPDATE:

Mr Bassett's office has issued this statement on his behalf.

"I stand by the evidence I provided to the ICAC today and refute allegations that I solicited donations from a prohibited donor prior to the 2011 state election," he said.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop