It was a moment of high drama at 10am yesterday when the principal witness in the current NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry, Ron Medich, entered the witness stand. But the day quickly descended into farce due to the Sydney businessman’s obfuscatory manner, combined with his detailed descriptions of the services provided by s-x workers.
On top of this, Medich’s mobile phone and electronic ankle bracelet, a condition of his release on bail on a charge of conspiring to murder Michael McGurk, repeatedly interfered with the commission’s sensitive recording devices. Although the phone was removed, the bracelet, of course, had to stay.
Most people approach a day at ICAC in total dread, but the multimillionaire property developer appeared insouciant, verbally wrangling with counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson SC, and even the commissioner. At one point counsel assisting looked as though he wanted to tear his hair out.
The commission is investigating allegations that Medich and an associate, former boxer Lucky Gattellari, organised a s-x worker for former minister NSW minister Ian Macdonald. It is alleged that the girl was a reward for arranging a dinner between the businessman and state energy executives at Leichhardt’s Tuscany restaurant in July 2009, which was intended to advance the business interests of Medich’s Rivercorp group of companies.
Gatellari has already pleaded guilty to the murder of McGurk, and gave evidence to the inquiry on Monday in a bullet-proof vest, with several armed bodyguards.
The inquiry heard that Medich had done three favours for Macdonald -- that, through Gatellari, he had procured a s-x worker called Tiffanie and that he had driven the minister to meet her at the Four Seasons Hotel and collected the key for him. The next day, when Mrs Macdonald had found the room key and rung up demanding an explanation, it was suggested to him that he had protected his friend and told her that the room was used for a massage.
Medich repeatedly denied that he thought Macdonald was indebted to him in any way and was therefore obligated to help the Sydney businessman.
His evidence was that he had almost nothing to do with the Rivercorp group, despite the fact that he had loaned them $15 million. Although he had spoken to the two energy officials, he could not have done a "sales pitch" for Rivercorp; in fact, his role in this dinner was mainly to procure Tiffanie, he said.
However, he wasn’t aware of the precise nature of the evening’s activities. "I don’t know what relations she was going to have," he said.
"With the girls, you get girls that will go out with you and, and if nothing happens you’ll get a girl that’s a masseuse to give you a happy ending or you’ll get girls that go all the way. All right. So I don’t even know what was asked by the girl. I didn’t handle the thing."
The commission heard that during dinner, Macdonald had complained about recent adverse press coverage of his parliamentary expenses, including being nicknamed "Sir Lunchalot". The former minister’s evidence will be that he went to the hotel room because he had "neck tightness" and needed a massage.
In the car journey to the hotel, Macdonald wanted to be reassured by Medich that "nobody knows about this type of thing".
He then asked the businessman to come into the hotel with him and have one drink "so that he could see the lay of the land". "He just wanted to see if there was anyone around I think that knew him or something like that, you know," Medich said.
His barrister, Winston Terracini SC, then asked Medich: "Without going into any detail, all right, you’ve given a description of what Gattellari’s girls could do and the types of things that they could do, OK. Now, did the minister ever suggest to you that he wanted a girl to do something s-xual as opposed to a massage?"
Medich replied: "He didn’t, no, and neither did Gattellari tell me. I didn’t speak to anyone about what the girls were going to do."
Terracini: "However, you were aware, because you’d known Gattellari, that if the request was made then they were able to do s-xual things as well?"
Medich: "I know that, yes."
Terracini: "And in terms of the girls that were at the restaurant on 15 July, 2009, did you know any of them?"
Medich: "I think I’d met one of them."
Terracini: "And absolutely no idea as to whether Tiffanie was a person who had a certain cut-off point, as it were, as to what she was prepared to do?"
Medich: "Would not have a clue."
Macdonald, who has been in the hearing room every day, was expected to give evidence as Crikey