A charge of official corruption against Logan City Mayor Luke Smith centres on allegations he received a luxury boat from a Chinese developer who donated tens of thousands of dollars to his election campaign fund, the ABC can reveal.
Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) officers charged Cr Smith on Monday with three offences: official corruption, perjury and failing to correct his register of interests.
He was taken to the Beenleigh watch house, south of Brisbane, on Monday morning and later granted bail.
He is expected to appear in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court on April 17.
In a statement after his release, Cr Smith said he would be vigorously defending the charges laid by the CCC.
“For the past year I have been willingly and openly assisting the CCC with their investigation as part of Operation Belcarra,” he said.
“To this day I have not been given the details of the allegations sitting behind these charges but I will be absolutely fighting this to the end.”
Operation Belcarra was set up to investigate the conduct of candidates in four south-east Queensland councils, including Logan, during the 2016 local government elections.
I will be vigorously defending the charges laid by the CCC. I have been willingly assisting the CCC with their investigation as part of Op Belcarra. To this day I have not been given details of allegations behind these charges but I will be absolutely fighting this to the end.
— Mayor Luke Smith (@MayorLukeSmith) March 26, 2018
Logan remains the only Queensland council still under investigation.
The CCC will allege Cr Smith “knowingly gave false testimony at a public hearing related to Operation Belcarra”.
The ABC understands the charges of official corruption and failing to correct his register of interests relate to allegations Cr Smith received the boat from a Chinese developer.
The same developer donated tens of thousands of dollars to Cr Smith’s election campaign fund, known as Logan Futures.
Earlier this month, CCC investigators executed a search warrant on a Gold Coast boat seller seeking documents relating to the sale by Cr Smith of the 2012 model Sea Ray 240 Sundeck.
The Sea Ray 240 Sundeck can carry 10 passengers and features a forward-boarding ladder, cockpit wet bar and stereo system.
The CCC was investigating how much, if anything, Cr Smith paid for the luxury boat.
The ABC understands Cr Smith sold the boat last year.
Cr Smith said given the situation and nature of the charges, he would not be commenting on the boat issue, and would allow the legal process to run its course.
The CCC told the ABC it was “unable to comment about matters that are before the court. The investigation into Logan City Council remains ongoing”.
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe would not comment on whether Cr Smith would be stood aside.
“I’m seeking further advice around a range of matters, but I don’t believe that I do have the powers to stand aside the Mayor, because of these matters that are unproven, matters that are before the courts,” he said.
“The Palaszczuk government is absolutely committed to delivering reform to local government, because we know there is a cloud hanging over local government in Queensland, because of a range of and a number of issues.
“That’s not fair to the vast majority of mayors and councillors across the state.
“We’ve got to see reform, reforms that make changes to local government to ensure that it can be returned to that place of respect in our community, and that very important role that it has in delivering good governance to the people of Queensland.”
Logan City Council released a statement after Cr Smith was charged.
“Logan City Council is aware that officers from the CCC visited council’s administration building on Monday morning (March 26) in relation to an ongoing investigation,” the statement said.
“Council’s duty of care remains with the community and its staff.
“Council respects the ongoing legal process and will continue to cooperate with all CCC-related matters.”
-with Alexandra Blucher, ABC