By Cam Lucadou-Wells and Brendan Rees
Casey councillor and former mayor Sam Aziz may return to Australia before the end of the IBAC hearings.
On 20 November, he told 3AW Radio that he would fly back from overseas work in Egypt “possibly in the seven to 10 days”.
The IBAC hearings are expected to run until 6 December.
“This is certainly nothing unusual,” Cr Aziz said of his overseas flight.
“And it is an absolute travesty of justice that the media seems to have made an issue out of it when, clearly, I have a return ticket and IBAC was aware I was travelling and didn’t stop me from travelling.”
On the hearing’s opening day, Counsel assisting Michael Tovey QC said that Cr Aziz would not appear.
He had allegedly put his house on the market and sold it soon after being served a search warrant, the hearing was told.
The ‘mayor emeritus’ had not yet returned since flying out to Egypt “some four or five weeks ago”, Mr Tovey said.
“And we are unaware as to if and when he might be returning.”
IBAC has since placed a restraining order on the proceeds of that house sale, Mr Tovey said.
On 3AW, Cr Aziz said that “two thirds” of the alleged $900,000 received from property developer John Woodman was the councillor’s own money.
He said he’d withdrawn the cash to stop his former wife from “quarantining or shutting down” money in his accounts.
He delivered it in a suitcase to Mr Woodman as an investment in mezzanine finance at a five per cent interest rate.
“I would never accept any money simply because I’m a councillor.”
Cr Aziz said he didn’t declare a conflict of interest in a council vote on the Woodman-linked Pavilion Estate because the loan arrangement ended two months beforehand.
“If I had my time again I would’ve made exactly the same decisions because I am sure that the decisions that I made were very, very good for the community.”
Mr Aziz denied ever accepting a ‘bribe’ describing the allegations as “absolute nonsense.”
“I have never ever in my entire career of 35 years of public service to receive a bribe for anything.
“I would never accept it upon myself to receive a bribe.
“What I have done is acted in the best interests of my community.”