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REVEALED: ICAC's international trail in pursuit of bureaucrat

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ICAC investigators were given the cold shoulder and threatened with legal action by a potential witness who they travelled to Germany to interview as part of their 2019 investigation into ex-Renewal SA CEO John Hanlon, explosive documents tabled in parliament have revealed.

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Charges against Hanlon and his fellow former Renewal SA executive Georgina Vasilevski, relating to the alleged misuse of travel allowances, fell over in court last week when prosecutors conceded they could not prove the pair had not engaged in work while on a trip to Melbourne.

Hanlon had also been charged over a separate trip he took to Berlin, which then-minister Stephen Mullighan told the Magistrates Court he had authorised.

ICAC investigators travelled to Germany in 2019 as part of their inquiries, with notes related to the trip tabled in parliament yesterday by SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo.

The papers contain handwritten notes showing the itinerary of one investigator, who spent Friday September 13 visiting various places of interest around Berlin, before noting they took a 4.45pm bus trip to Hamburg for the weekend.

The next entry is the following Monday September 16.

Also tabled was an email exchange between an ICAC investigator and an employee at a company that Hanlon had evidently claimed to have visited as part of his work; Berlin-based CRCLR.

The company’s website describes it as a “Think-and-Do Tank” and declares: “We believe that in order to address today’s grand challenges such as inequality and climate change, we need to change our current way of doing things. That’s why we develop spaces and concepts following circular principles, and can also support you in making your projects and processes more circular.”

One email from an ICAC investigator to CRCLR employee Alice Grindhammer notes her concern “about receiving correspondence from unknown overseas people” and goes on to detail their investigation into Hanlon, who they tell her used public funds on a business trip that was for personal purposes.

However, Grindhammer appeared unconvinced, telling the ICAC representatives she could not help them and rejecting several invitations to meet with them – even when informed that they were on their way to Germany and had scheduled a meeting on September 10.

That’s not good news

Grindhammer finally wrote on Friday September 6, 2019: “We kindly ask you to stop contacting us.”

“You did not provide us with any proof of your legitimacy… therefore we will not be meeting you on the 10th of September, or answer your requests any longer.

“If you do not stop contacting us we will initiate legal proceedings,” she concludes.

One of the investigators then forwarded her response to their colleague with the observation: “That’s not good news.”

In tabling the documents yesterday, Pangallo – who chairs parliament’s Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee as well as a separate select committee into reputational harm caused by ICAC investigations – argued the charges against Hanlon and Vasilevski were thrown out of court “because there was not a shred of evidence against them”.

“The hearing proved extremely embarrassing for one of ICAC’s expert witnesses in telecommunications, who was not an expert at all, had not given evidence to a court before and had no idea of the vague information that was put forward by the DPP – ostensibly briefed by ICAC investigators – except that she knew a lot about phones,” he said.

“Based on records, emails and handwritten notes by investigators and others that I have personally sighted, it would have been clear to anyone, including the DPP, that there was no case to answer and the matter has been a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The investigation was carried out under former ICAC Bruce Lander. InDaily asked his successor Ann Vanstone whether she had reviewed the inquiry and if she was satisfied with it.

In a statement, she said: “It would be inappropriate for me to address the questions you pose.”

“I am surprised to learn that documents relevant to the Hanlon investigation might have been tabled in the Upper House yesterday by the Chair of the Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee,” she said.

“As the DPP said yesterday, notwithstanding the Magistrate’s ruling, the question of whether an ex officio information will be laid in the District or Supreme Court is under consideration. That would always be the case after such a ruling.

“That means that public discussion of the case is inappropriate.

“There will be time for that later.”

However, Attorney-General Vickie Chapman herself canvassed the matter yesterday in an attack on Labor MP Tom Koutsantonis, who she accused of “reckless conduct” in his public statements on the inquiry, which she said “smeared Renewal SA and all its employees, and immediately declared the guilt of the two former executives involved”.

“The court proceedings which followed the charges revealed that the charges were limited to their personal conduct,” she told parliament.

“They did not relate to any wider issues associated with the work of Renewal SA and the many projects it undertakes to support industrial and commercial development.”

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