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Nov 27, 2012

Deal gone sour: bad blood between Slaters and Nowicki?

Harry Nowicki, a key figure in the claims against Julia Gillard over the AWU issue, saw a potential deal with Slater & Gordon (the law firm at the centre of the scandal) fall through two years ago.


Harry Nowicki, the chief funder of Ralph Blewitt’s trip Down Under to assail the Prime Minister, was denied tens of millions of dollars by the law firm at the centre of the case.

Nowicki, a former personal injury lawyer who was fined $15,000 for professional misconduct by Victoria’s legal services commissioner last year, confirmed to Crikey this morning that Slater & Gordon had done due diligence on his former firm Nowicki Carbone in 2010, because it was seeking to purchase a share of it.

Crikey understands the purchase — potentially worth tens of millions of dollars — was derailed at the final hurdle when Slater & Gordon withdrew after inspecting the firm’s internals.

Nowicki attested to the breakdown this morning, but says he later sold his stake in the ambulance-chasers that still bear his name to a third party who he refused to disclose.

The source of Blewitt’s funds was the subject of Leigh Sales’ takedown of Blewitt, the alleged Asian land deals rorter, on last night’s edition of 7.30. However, Blewitt refused to say who was paying his lawyers.

Slaters has been central to the Australian Workers Union saga, with Nowicki and his ally Michael Smith (an-ex Sydney shock jock) regularly unloading on the firm and demanding it answer questions as to why it didn’t tell the union about Bruce Wilson’s re-election fund.

Nowicki, a former left-aligned Builders Labourers Federation lawyer, whose own freewheeling past in the 1970s is yet to be properly scrutinised, denied any ulterior motive. “All I’m after is the truth,” he told Crikey.

However, senior legal sources say the collapsed deal may be the source of lingering animus. At the Slater & Gordon AGM last month, Nowicki rocked up to ask questions of managing partner Andrew Grech.

“Harry just rambled and rambled about all sorts of disclosure issues and didn’t appear to have any question,” said one source who was present at the time.

Nowicki, an amateur historian, is researching a book on the AWU in the mid-1990s but he told Crikey he was yet to find a publisher and was not working off an advance.

Crikey reported in August that Nowicki had sicced Brisbane-based Australian journalist Hedley Thomas onto former Slaters partner Nick Styant-Browne, who in turn divulged details of the Prime Minister’s interview with the firm in 1995.

Some other connections are also interesting.  Styant-Browne missed out on millions from Slaters’ float in 2007 (the partners got $14 million) and was reportedly also peeved because his commercial division oversaw the Blewitt-Wilson conveyancing file on the sale of the now notorious Kerr Street property in Fitzroy.

Last year, Smith’s Central Coast wedding was attended by leading Coalition figures George Brandis and Barnaby Joyce.

Nowicki Carbone did not respond to Crikey‘s request for comment this morning. A Slater & Gordon spokesperson declined to comment.


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