The NSW corruption watchdog has found Canada Bay mayor Angelo Tsirekas engaged in serious corrupt conduct by taking bribes from a developer, and should be removed from civic office.
The matter has been referred to the DPP for possible prosecution with the state government announcing Mr Tsirekas’ immediate suspension “with a view to his dismissal”.
In a report released on Thursday the ICAC found between November 2015 and February 2019 Mr Tsirekas sought and accepted bribes from I-Prosperity Group and its agent Joseph Chidiac, who was also his friend.
The benefits, provided as an ‘inducement or reward’ for favouring the developer, included overseas flights and accommodation worth at least $18,000, the commission found.
ICAC also found Mr Tsirekas engaged in serious corrupt conduct by deliberately failing to disclose a conflict of interest regarding Mr Chidiac.
“The Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to the suspension of Mr Tsirekas from civic office with a view to his dismissal in relation to these serious corrupt conduct findings, and that prompt action is required in the public interest,” the ICAC said.
Benefits paid for by developer
The commission found that Mr Tsirekas made several trips to China, including one to attend the wedding of I-Prosperity’s director.
The trip included accomadation at the Langham hotel, a visit to Nanjing with Mr Chidiac and I-Prosper employees and visits to a nightclub.
“The Commission is satisfied that the benefits extended to Mr Tsirekas (and Mr Chidiac) were paid for or ultimately met by I-Prosperity,” the investigation found.
The Commission also found that Mr Chidiac engaged in serious corrupt conduct by providing benefits to Mr Tsirekas as a reward or inducement to favour his or I-Prosperity’s interests in relation to Council decisions about planning matters affecting I-Prosperity properties in Rhodes.
Corruption prevention recommendations
The ICAC has made four corruption prevention recommendations to NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
They include amendments to the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils, and requiring councils to proactively release relevant business papers, correspondence and reports where confidentiality no longer applies.
Cr Tsirekas resigned from the Council in June 2016 to make a failed bid for the federal seat of Reid in that year’s federal election. He was re-elected to Council in September 2017.
Following the release of the report local government minister Ron Hoenig said: “having considered ICAC’s recommendation I have suspended Angelo Tsirekas from civic office with a view to his dismissal for serious corrupt conduct effective immediately”.
The government would consider ICAC’s corruption prevention recommendations and respond in due course, he said.
A spokesman for Canada Bay Council told Government News: “Council is aware that a report into Operation Tolosa has been published by the ICAC. We are unable to provide comment until the report has been reviewed.”
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