Sunshine property’s Matthew Fisk tells ICAC about “unusual” behaviour during land deal with Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council

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NEGOTIATIONS: Warners Bay McDonalds, where developers met with representatives of the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council. Picture: Google As an experienced property developer and qualified valuer based in Sydney, Matthew Fisk knew his way around a land deal.
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But as he bargained with the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council over land it owned at Warners Bay, there were aspects of the negotiations that struck him as strange.

One of the more “unusual” elements, Mr Fisktold anIndependent Commission against Corruption inquiry, wasthe role of disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias and an instance where Mr Petrouliasallegedly “scribbled out” a figure in a contract.

The ICAC is investigating whether a series of deals to sellAwabakal land to developers were a “ruse” to benefit former board members Richard Green orDebbie Dates. It is also probing whetherthe first of the deals was a sham set up by Mr Petroulias–using a company heallegedly controlled called Gows Heat –so he could on-sellhis interests to other buyers.

Mr Fisk and his boss, a Sydney businessman namedTony Zong, were the buyers in one of the deals.

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ICAC’s attention on Candy and DatesMysteries in the minutes as ICAC inquiry heats upCash, intrigue and a dead company director on ICAC’s skylineICAC hears of threats after CEO sackingOur original investigationMr Zong later took –and dropped –legal action against the land council, claiming he was not informed the deal did not have proper authorisation.

Mr Zong’s involvement began in 2015, when he attended a meeting at Warners Bay McDonalds over a potential land deal.

Mr Fisk told the inquiry he accompanied Mr Zong to the meeting, also attended by Mr Green and Mr Petroulias.

The parties wereallegedly brought togetherby a former inmate who served time with Mr Petroulias at Silverwater jail –Sammy Say – who was acquainted with a contact of Mr Zong.

Mr Fisk recalled one of the third parties introducingMr Petroulias as a lawyer acting for the land council.

So he was surprised–at the end of a tour –when he was informed that Mr Petroulias had a “larger interest”.

“I believe it was Sammy Say that had used words to the effect that Nick has already put the deal together,” Mr Fisk recalled.“Then Nick proceeded with he already has an option to acquire these five parcels of land and it would be, in fact, us …acquiring Nick’s option moving forward.”

An option is where a potential buyer pays a vendor for the right to purchase theirproperty at a fixed price at a later time. The vendor can not sell the property to a third party in thatperiod.

SCRUTINY: A developer recalled Nick Petroulias being introduced as a lawyer for Awabakal and a buyer for its land. He thought it was “unusual”. Picture: Janie Barrett

Council assisting Nicholas Chen asked Mr Fisk if he thought it unusual that the land council’s lawyer would have an option overits land.

“I thought it was quite unusual, particularly that when I asked what the purchase price was I was told that it was to be subject to valuation,” Mr Fisksaid.

According to Mr Fisk, another odd twistcame as a contract was being signed with the amount tobe paid out to Gows Heat.

“After Mr Zong had signed the document Mr Petroulias then lent over, scribbled out $250,000, wrote $673,000 and then initialled it,” Mr Fisk said.

“Tony [Zong] said, look, he said to Nick, ‘what are you doing?’ I don’t recall the response that was given but I found it very unusual.”

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