The Liberal Democratic Party’s high-flying lead Senate candidate in South Australia is facing a possible two years in jail over charges he flew a plane illegally.

The party confirmed to Crikey that South Australian property developer Roostam Sadri, 70, is the lead Senate candidate for South Australia, confirming a Fairfax report on his candidacy last week. A spokesperson for the party stated Sadri had invested in the campaign but he was chosen on merit and not because of his donation.

“Mr Sadri approached the Liberal Democrats seeking to run for the Liberal Democrats offering his experience, expertise and a willingness to inject funds into the campaign,” the spokesperson said. “Mr Sadri’s initial offer of funds got our party interested, but after confirming Mr Sadri’s excellent credentials to serve as a Liberal Democrats’ senator in South Australia, and after his immersion into the party, the party has preselected Mr Sadri based on his merits … Consistent with the party’s record and support for financial disclosure, all disclosure obligations will be fully satisfied. ”

Sadri, a prominent South Australian businessman who has run several companies and developments in the state, is being chased by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority over claims he flew a plane without a licence.

CASA alleges Sadri took control of private planes going from Adelaide to Victoria and back in January 2014 without holding a proper civil aviation authorisation to take control of the aircraft. CASA also alleged Sadri lied on his student pilot licence application in 2013 by stating that no action had been taken against him in relation to any aviation-related licence, but the authority has dropped this claim.

In 2012, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal upheld a 2011 decision by CASA to revoke Sadri’s licence after several incidents related to his flying over the course of two years:

“All of the evidence before us indicates that Mr Sadri is not competent to fly an aeroplane … We also refer to the number of occasions when Mr Sadri failed earlier flight tests, to which we have referred above. His lack of competence extends to such basic matters as failing to maintain altitude and direction, his approach to landings, his use of the radio, and his difficulties with navigation.”

The AAT found Sadri demonstrated “a lack of respect for authorities” over his regulatory duties that come with a pilot’s licence and found he was not “a fit and proper person to hold a licence”.

The maximum penalty for flying an aircraft without a licence is two years’ imprisonment, while making a false statement carries a maximum penalty of 12 months behind bars.

The spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats told Crikey CASA had settled the matter and paid Sadri’s costs, but a spokesperson for CASA said “that is not true”. The Commonwealth DPP did drop the charge for making a false statement, but the authority said the other two charges were still going ahead, and were listed to be mentioned in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on June 14. Crikey put this to the Liberal Democrats but did not hear back before deadline.

If he’s elected and found guilty Sadri could be forced to resign from the Senate; under Commonwealth law, parliamentarians are banned from Parliament while serving a jail term or awaiting sentence if convicted of crimes punishable by a year or more in prison.

It comes as rumours that Sadri had paid $500,000 to the party in exchange for the lead Senate position on the LDP ticket were boosted by a document of written agreement between Sadri and the LDP leaked to Fairfax last week. Sadri might be in violation of this agreement, as it also outlines that Sadri would need to be eligible to be elected to the Senate.

Last week, Liberal Democrat Senator for New South Wales David Leyonhjelm claimed there was a “spy” working for the Liberal Party inside the Liberal Democrat national executive after an email was leaked to Crikey outlining plans to pay party founder John Humphreys cash to work on Leyonhjelm’s campaign in the place of staffer Helen Dale, who quit late last month.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey