Tim Koelma spent the day in the witness box on Wednesday. Photo: James BrickwoodChris Spence was a desperate man. Text messages shown at a corruption inquiry reveal the aspiring Liberal MP for The Entrance was waiting for his cut of illegal developer donations to flow his way.
“Have my guys shown some love?” Mr Spence texted from Vietnam on August 4, 2010. “I’m hoping they do before Friday as I’ll be in Hue An [sic] which is the suit place.”
The Independent Commission Against Corruption heard on Wednesday that the property developer brothers Nabil and Nicholas Gazal paid $9504 a month to an alleged Liberal Party slush fund to “finance” the otherwise unemployed Mr Spence while he ran his election campaign.
The alleged controller of the fund, Tim Koelma, texted a day later that there had been “no love yet but will transfer when it arrives”.
There was better news on August 6. Mr Koelma texted: “Friends came through. Has been sent to you.”
“Luvs you,” Mr Spence fired back.
Mr Koelma agreed that Mr Spence, a former staffer to the then One Nation upper house MP David Oldfield, was “very close to the Gazals”.
Counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, suggested the text meant: “I want my Gazal dough because I’m just about to get a bloke to make me a suit.”
“That’s probably even more casual than his language with me,” Mr Koelma replied.
The ICAC is investigating allegations that Mr Koelma set up a “sham company” called Eightbyfive which sent “fake” invoices for services to property developers and other businesses to disguise the fact that they were making illegal donations to the Liberal Party.
Mr Koelma, 29, was threatened with jail after repeatedly claiming that Eightbyfive performed legitimate work, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
“Can I remind you even if you relent now and tell the truth people might go easy on you. It’s time to get out Mr Koelma. Take that advice?” offered Mr Watson.
When Mr Koelma replied that he wasn’t sure what Mr Watson “was driving at”, Mr Watson snapped: “At lunchtime you can take a cab out to Malabar [Long Bay jail] and have a good look around.”
Commissioner Megan Latham said that Mr Koelma should be well aware of the consequences of giving false or misleading evidence to the ICAC, an offence punishable by up to five years in jail.
Mr Koelma, who was an adviser to former state Liberal energy minister Chris Hartcher, denied Mr Hartcher was the “mastermind” of the scheme which was set up to subvert the 2009 ban on property developers donating to political parties.
The inquiry has heard allegations that Mr Hartcher, the member for Terrigal, used the money to help bankroll the election campaign for his central coast colleagues, Mr Spence and Darren Webber. All three men have been suspended from the parliamentary Liberal Party.
The inquiry has previously heard that Mr Spence, a former house painter, received $105,000 in banned developer donations via Eightbyfive.
His colleague Mr Webber, a one-time apprentice butcher and call centre employee, received $50,000.
Mr Webber was also keen for his cut of the Eightbyfive money.
“Hey Mr T. Anything from our friends yet?” he texted Mr Koelma on June 23, 2010.
“Nothing yet; they were going to follow up today,” Mr Koelma replied.
Mr Koelma claimed on Wednesday that he subcontracted Mr Spence to provide advice to the Gazal family, whose company Gazcorp is behind the controversial Liverpool retail outlet Orange Grove.
The inquiry has heard that the money gave Mr Spence and Mr Webber an advantage over rival candidates as it allowed them to use all their time to campaign.
Between 2009 and 2011 nine companies, most of the them developers, paid $414,042 to Eightbyfive.
Ray Carter, a long-time staffer to Mr Hartcher, has given explosive evidence that Eightbyfive was a “front” to channel developer donations.
Mr Spence is expected to give evidence later this week, along with embattled coal mogul Nathan Tinkler.
Mr Tinkler’s property development group Buildev allegedly paid $66,000 to Eightbyfive in return for favours from Mr Hartcher.
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