The NSW ICAC has opened hearings into evidence of an extensive kickback scheme that allegedly netted two former RMS officers cash and benefits worth almost $7 million.
On Monday the commission heard about a complex and tangled web of companies and relationships allegedly involved in bribes, kickbacks, money laundering and rigged tendering for Roads and Maritime Services contracts orchestrated by two former staffers, Alexandre Dubois and Craig Steyn, between 2009 and June 2019.
Counsel assisting Jason Downing told the ICAC the evidence would show that Mr Dubois and Mr Steyne engaged in “large scale, systematic conduct” in which they awarded RMS contracts to their mates in exchange for “very substantial kickbacks”.
“Ultimately the evidence will deal with large scale systemic conduct involving awarding contracts in exchange for substantial kickbacks,” Mr Downing said.
“I expect the evidence will ultimately demonstrate that contracts in excess of $40 million were allocated to preferred contractors by Mr Dubois and Mr Steyn and in return they received kickbacks in the form of either money or goods and services to a combined value of at least $6.89 million”.
He said it wasn’t possible to put a precise figure on the benefits they may have received because of the nature of the payments and lack of a paper trail.
The ICAC heard in some cases companies that had just been set up were immediately put forward as vendors and started getting contracts in what should have set alarm bells ringing at the RMS, but didn’t.
Luxury watches and
Over a decade, the ICAC heard, Mr Dubois received benefits in the form of cash payments and debit cards gifted to him by contractors, which he used to withdraw cash or buy items including a Rollex watch. He also organised for an apparent fleet of luxury cars to be bought for his use, including four Porsches and three Ferraris.
Mr Downing said the evidence would also indicate that $1.3 million was paid into a company controlled by a friend of Mr Dubois, but which was effectively set up to receive kickbacks from various contractors Mr Dubois was providing work for, many of whom were long time associates from the Lebanese community.
One company controlled by two friends received RMS work worth $13.34 million between 2010-19. In total, the companies the pair controlled got RMS contracts worth $21 million over the same period.
The price of a contract didn’t cheaply, the ICAC heard, with the evidence suggesting Mr Dubois was paid 50 per cent of one contractor’s profits as an alleged kickback.
Apple devices and school fees
While Mr Dubois had a penchant for cash and luxury cars, the evidence would show Mr Steyne seemed to prefer his kickbacks in the form of Apple devices and work on his house, the ICAC heard.
It would also show he got kickbacks including cash payments, living and travel expenses, school fees and a Mercedes Benz for his wife, Mr Downing said.
Mr Steyn also allegedly set up a company to disguise and funnel kickbacks to him.
The commission heard Mr Dubois started as a contractor with RMS in 2009, the same year as Mr Steyne, and they first met at work in 2011.
In 2014 were both offered work as a heavy vehicle maintenance and program officers.
Their employment with RMS was terminated in 2019 after an internal investigation.
Ms Dowing said while it appears Mr Steyn’s conduct was on a smaller scale than that of Mr Dubois, there was evidence Mr Steyn was getting kickbacks before he met Mr Dubois, and that he recognised Mr Dubois as a “fellow traveller”.
Mr Downing said the evidence would show that whatever governance systems existed within the RMS around procurement had failed.
Even “cursory due diligence” would have raised red flags, he said.
Mr Downing criticised Mr Dubois and Mr Steyn’s immediate supervisor who he said was at best ill-equipped to deal with their conduct or at worst “wilfully uninterested at looking into it”.
Chief Commissioner Peter Hall said the public had the right to expect that a significant government agency was properly and competently managed and that public money was spent appropriately.
“These all are matters that fall under the subheading of corruption prevention and they are of great significance,” he said.
He also said the ICAC applied last June to the NSW Crime Commission to freeze assets and as a result cash deposits, real estate and cars worth $3.4 million have been seized.
The hearing is expected to last four to six weeks.
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