Millionaire Sydney property developer Ron Medich put in a celebrity appearance at the latest NSW ICAC hearing this week, saying that he had never heard the term “butter up” in his life, and did not know what it meant.
Medich, currently out on bail on charges of conspiring to murder Michael McGurk, was asked about $130,000 in cash and other benefits paid to three officials of the Wagonga Aboriginal Land Council, while negotiations were taking place with the council over several property deals.
He was asked: “At that time did [associate Lucky] Gattellari … say words to the effect that those sorts of deals could be brought about if side or secret payments were being made to the executives of the land councils?”
“Definitely not,” Medich replied. Counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson SC pressed on.
Watson: “Well, you see, that’s what the suggestion is and I’ve got to say now, Mr Gattellari said that they had a discussion in those sorts of terms with you but the expression ‘butter up’ was used. Do you deny that?” Medich: “I totally deny that. I’ve never heard that word ‘buttered up’ ever used in my life.”
Medich was in the witness box for about two hours, and in that time managed to convey only two messages: “I know nothing about this” and “I delegated that to Lucky”. Lucky and Medich are two of a group of seven men who have been charged over the murder of McGurk, who was gunned down in the driveway of his Cremorne house in September 2009.
Documents relating to the current ICAC inquiry were discovered when Lucky’s house was raided after the murder, and the former boxer is widely believed to be informing on Medich and others in order to save his own skin.
Medich was questioned extensively about $30,000 cash and a $20,000 cheque made out to Wagonga in a brown paper bag, which was found in Lucky’s possession just down the road from the property developer’s Point Piper mansion. The police pulled over Lucky’s car because they were investigating a recent string of burglaries in the exclusive eastern suburbs enclave.
Medich said that he had put the cash into a shopping bag and given it to Lucky and another man, Ronnie Binge, for them to pay deposits on blocks of land.
Geoff Watson asked: “So you gave them cash. Did it cross your mind that they may be paying cash as bribes to people?”
Medich: “No.” Watson: “Did it cross your mind that they may be making secret or side payments to people in cash?” Medich: “No.” Watson: “Well why did you give them the cash then?”
Medich: “I didn’t have a cheque. They came, came up there at the last moment and … said they did not know what the amount of the cheque was. So are you saying I should have given him a blank cheque with my signature on it?”
In the end, none of the deals went ahead because the governing body, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, found out about the negotiations and put a stop to them.
The inquiry finished yesterday, and the report will be handed down later this year. Medich is out on bail, but Lucky is languishing in protective custody in jail, forced to don a bulletproof vest for his frequent appearances at the ICAC; two so far, but evidently more to come.
So far, it is a bit like watching a good HBO series. The stories change, but the same actors continue to appear. “Oh look,” you think, “there’s that bloke who was in the The Wire!”
Lucky’s evidence has led to two inquiries to date — we are looking forward to the next one.