Former Casey mayor Lorraine Wreford has sensationally claimed that councillor Sam Aziz conspired for her to commit perjury to an IBAC inquiry about the amount of a loan he gave in a suitcase to a property developer.
Ms Wreford, employed by the developer John Woodman as his lobbyist, also referred to Cr Aziz and Cr Geoff Ablett as becoming “greedy” for money.
The pair of councillors are alleged by IBAC to have received $1.2 million from Mr Woodman, who had interest in several property projects in Casey.
She also agreed that Cr Aziz was being bribed to support council motions in Mr Woodman’s favour.
Early in her evidence, Ms Wreford told the November 27 hearing that Cr Aziz had sought to meet with her after they had been summoned as witnesses for the anti-corruption hearing.
They met at a cafe “straight” after Cr Aziz gave private evidence to IBAC.
“We’ve got to get our story straight,” Cr Aziz said, according to Ms Wreford.
Cr Aziz told her that Mr Woodman had to tell IBAC that the loan was for $370,000 and “no other amount”.
According to Mr Woodman’s public evidence to the commission, the loan was for $600,000 cash delivered in a suitcase by Cr Aziz.
At the councillor’s request, the contract was later varied in a backdated version for $370,000, Mr Woodman has told the inquiry.
At the hearing, Ms Wreford said she asked Cr Aziz at the time: “Are you saying you lied to IBAC?”
She said that Cr Aziz replied: “Yes and we have to keep our stories straight.”
Commissioner Robert Redlich asked if Cr Aziz was encouraging her to commit perjury.
“One hundred percent,” Ms Wreford said.
Ms Wreford agreed with counsel assisting IBAC, Michael Tovey, that Cr Aziz in 2018 had threatened to vote against the H3 intersection in Hall Road, Cranbourne West if he didn’t receive about $600,000.
“Certainly Cr Aziz seemed to think he was owed that money.”
In what Ms Wreford said was a “highly unusual circumstance”, she said she couriered $2000 a month in cash to Cr Aziz as part of what she thought was repayments for the loaned money.
Mr Woodman had told the inquiry that Cr Aziz was being paid the cash as part of a $25,000 monthly Smart Cities consultancy fee for a project in Little River.
In March Ms Wreford delivered a contract backdated to December 2018 to Cr Aziz – to give “legitimacy” to the deal, Mr Tovey said.
“I thought it was a legal document,” Ms Wreford said.
She said she didn’t feel comfortable with the cash deliveries, or with Cr Aziz’s demands for money from Mr Woodman.
“Over the past 18 months I’ve been quite disturbed about how greedy Cr Aziz has become.“
She said Mr Woodman mentioned that there were two such councillors in Casey, the other being Cr Ablett.
By early 2018, Ms Wreford realised that cash to Cr Aziz was being linked to him supporting council motions in Mr Woodman’s favour.
When Mr Redlich asserted that this amounted to Cr Aziz being bribed, Ms Wreford said: “In all honesty, I wasn’t sure who was bribing who.”
Under more questioning, she agreed it was a bribe but she’d insisted that Cr Aziz should have declared a conflict of interest and removed himself on voting on Mr Woodman’s matters.
She said she’d told Cr Aziz to declare a conflict of interest at council but he hadn’t done so.
“I can’t tell you how shocked I was he hadn’t done it.”