No grand plan for land with Nick Petroulias, ICAC hears from businessman Tony Zong

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HAPPIER TIMES: Awabakal board members Debbie Dates and Richard Green, Tony Zong and Sammy Say after a deal was signed at the land council’s offices in 2015.
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A Sydney businessman has denied being involved ina “grand scheme” with disgraced former assistant tax commissioner Nick Petroulias to develop Aboriginal land across NSW.

The Independent Commission against Corruption is investigatingfour deals to sell off property belonging to the Awabakal Aboriginal Land Council, allegedly brokered by Mr Petroulias and two board members.

Mr Petroulias has been accused of using a shelf company called Gows Heat to secure –and then on-sell –purchase rightsover the land.However none of the deals had necessaryapprovals from Awabakal members orthe NSW Aboriginal Land Council, the inquiry has been told.

Under state legislation, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council issues a dealing certificate once it has approved a transaction, but can knock it back if it considers it against the interests of the community.

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The inquiry heardhe signed the agreement even though his own lawyer, Mark Driscoll,warned him via email he should not proceed without a dealing certificate.

Mr Driscoll raised concerns about the quality of the documentation and the vendors’ sense of urgency “for no apparent reason”.

However Mr Zong alleged he was reassured with a 100 per cent “guarantee”fromMr Petroulias the dealing certificate would be forthcoming.The deal wassigned before a group photo at the land council’s Islington office.

“But you never did get a dealing certificate, did you?” asked counsel assisting the commission, Nicholas Chen.

“Yeah, after that I try text him [Mr Petroulias]a lot and then he blocked my number,” Mr Zong responded.

Mr Zong admitted he was also pitched a deal in Wollongong, but denied he was part of a “grander scheme” or joint venture with Mr Petroulias to pursue the development of Aboriginal land acrossNSW.

“You weren’t involved in an organisation or participating in a venture with Mr Petroulias called the United Land Council?” Mr Chen asked.

“No,” Mr Zong replied.

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