Knightsbridge North Lawyers and Despina Bakis attempt to have Awabakal ICAC inquiry thrown out

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The partner of disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias – who is alleged to have worked with him to try and sell up to$30 million worth of Awabakal land – has failed in a bid to have an ICAC inquiry into the deals shut down.
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But an appeal has been launched, after the Supreme Court threw out the complaint made by Knightsbridge North Lawyers, of which Despina Bakis is the sole director.

The Supreme Court was asked to declare the corruption watchdog’s investigation “void” and “infected by jurisdictional error”.

It also requested the court make orders “restraining ICAC from continuing to investigate the subject matter and from conducting a public inquiry into it”.

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Ms Bakis and Mr Petroulias are alleged to have been in an “on again off again” relationship for about 20 years, dating back to before Mr Petroulias was imprisoned for corrupt conduct during his time at the helm of the n Tax Office.

Mr Petroulias has now been accused of playing a “central role” in four deals to sell off land belonging to the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council.

The ICAC is investigating whether the deals were a ruse to benefit Mr Petroulias, Ms Bakis and two Awabakal board members.

Knightsbridge argued it was beyond the jurisdiction of the ICAC to investigate the allegations because they were trivial and did not amount to “serious or systemic” corrupt conduct under the ICAC Act.

It was argued the inquiry could prejudice the reputation of parties involved in a separate civil court case. Instead, the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was offered up as providing a “suitable procedure” for an investigation.

Justice Fagan pointed out the legislation allows for the ICAC to commence an investigation despite any active court proceedings.

The appeal will be heard laterthis month.

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