Former Australian of the Year state finalist Eman Sharobeem told a Sydney corruption inquiry that she used charity funds to buy gifts for federal and state politicians – a charge all those named as recipients adamantly deny.
Testifying on Thursday, Sharobeem told the Independent Commission Against Corruption she used money from the Immigrant Women’s Health Service to pay for gifts worth $12,500 for both guests and politicians.
She said she purchased gifts for NSW ministers Victor Dominello and Pru Goward and federal ministers Michaelia Cash, Marise Payne and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.
Defence Minister Payne subsequently told Fairfax Media, “Any allegation that Minister Payne received a gift of that nature from Ms Sharobeem is completely false.” A New Daily check on the three senators’ interests-and-gifts register also found no mention of any such gifts.
Sharobeem is accused of rorting more than half a million dollars while she was in charge of two publicly funded health services in Sydney to pay for personal holidays, jewellery and luxury goods.
Mr Dominello said in a statement he recalled being offered a watch but refused it.
The other state and federal politicians have been contacted for comment but are yet to say anything.
Sharobeem told Thursday’s hearing that any jewellery receipts charged to the Immigrant Women’s Health service were part of normal business and if she approved personal expenses it was by accident.
“I was consumed helping people,” she said.
Sharobeem was often visibly upset during questioning and said the inquiry had the wrong person.
“Who do you think I am, a rich person? I can’t even pay my lawyers,” she said.
Sharobeem was shown several receipts that had been filed as expenses with the charity.
The top of the receipts which normally shows the business name had been cut off.
One invoice uncovered from Eternity Jewellers totalled $20,000 for an 18-carat gold diamond necklace and diamond studs earrings. It had the top of a credit card receipt only stapled to it.
A separate invoice missing a credit card receipt showed a purchase of an $8000 white gold diamond ring.
Sharobeem denied cutting the receipts saying she only ever removed the staples.
“Would I be that stupid to leave it like that,” Sharobeem told the inquiry.
She said she would simply empty her bag onto her desk and rely on her assistant to sort out which expenses were personal and which were for the charity.