The Liberal staffer at the centre of a NSW probe into donation rorts enlisted his little brother in a “black ops” mission to smear a senior bureaucrat, the corruption watchdog has heard.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating EightByFive, a “sham” company set up by former NSW minister Chris Hartcher’s ex-staffer Tim Koelma.
EightByFive was allegedly used to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars from banned political donors to NSW Liberals.
The ICAC has obtained a 2010 email exchange in which Koelma asked his brother Eric to print out and send off a document, signing off: “Yay! Black ops”.
Eric Koelma, who was 20 at the time, replied: “Can do brother. Heard a news report just then on it. 000000.”
He said at the hearing on Thursday he did not realise “black ops” was a military term that suggested manoeuvres “under cover of darkness”.
Days later an anonymous – and baseless – corruption complaint against then-Sydney Water managing director Kerry Schott lobbed at the ICAC’s offices in an unmarked envelope.
At the time, Dr Schott was locked in a dispute with alleged EightByFive donor Australian Water Holdings.
On Thursday, Eric Koelma told the watchdog he understood “black ops” to be a reference to night time excursions by Young Liberals to post election signs, and that 000000 represented the colour black in computer coding.
But he did not know who Dr Schott was, nor what ICAC did, he said on Thursday.
“You’ve forwarded on a complaint by someone you don’t know about, people you don’t know, to an entity that you just said you’d never heard of?” junior counsel assisting Greg O’Mahoney asked.
“That’s correct,” the witness replied.
Eric said after ICAC investigators came knocking, he questioned his brother about why he had involved him in the scheme and Tim told him his printer might have been out of ink at the time.
But Mr O’Mahoney described it as a deliberate attempt to disguise Tim Koelma’s role in lodging the false complaint.
“You knew exactly what you were doing. You’d had a discussion with your brother about it, and you understood that this was black ops in the military sense – this was under cover of darkness, this was something quite inappropriate and covert,” Mr O’Mahoney said.
“I don’t agree,” Eric replied.
The inquiry continues on Thursday afternoon with NSW upper house MP Marie Ficarra due to give evidence.