A phone call discussing flowers being gifted for ‘all the coffees’ was code for bribes, a Victorian corruption probe has heard.
An allegedly corrupt former mayor has denied selling his influence to derive more than a $1 million in benefits.
During his final examination before a corruption inquiry, counsel assisting Michael Tovey accused Sam Aziz of trading his influence while he was an outer suburban mayor, earning him more than $300,000 a year.
“Absolutely not,” Mr Aziz replied.
“This will be all over the media tomorrow and I’ll be accused of taking a million dollars of bribes as usual.
“Where is all that money if I’ve taken it?”
The independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission is probing allegations of corrupt conduct involving councillors and property developers in the City of Casey.
Mr Aziz was the mayor at the south eastern Melbourne council when he allegedly took kickbacks from developers in exchange for pushing their interests.
Secretly recorded conversations involving Mr Aziz were played to the inquiry on Tuesday, in which allegedly coded language was used to describe payments.
One conversation was between Mr Aziz and Tino Grossi, the former chief executive of Jim’s Mowing group, who Mr Aziz previously told the inquiry had introduced him to several people wanting to discuss council matters.
One of those people was Zlatimir Kostic, a land owner wanting to do a development in the area.
In the conversation, Mr Grossi tells Mr Aziz that “Zlad” had just been to his house.
“He couldn’t stop thanking you for everything you’ve done for him. On Friday night, he’s going to come over, and bring Joanne a nice bunch of flowers just to say thank you for all the coffees she’s made for him.”
Shortly after, Mr Aziz deposited $20,000 in cash into his bank account.
“What was happening was that he was bringing over bribe money, wasn’t he, that you shortly thereafter put in the bank?” Mr Tovey asked.
“No,” Mr Aziz replied.
Mr Aziz said he borrowed $25,000 from Mr Grossi “as a friend” and denied it came from Mr Kostic.
He also conceded he failed to declare conflicts of interests when matters came before the council.
Commissioner Robert Redlich said Mr Aziz breached his integrity obligations as a councillor “in the most profound way” by failing to disclose the private benefits he received.
“I have difficulty in understanding your outrage and indignation about the allegations that are made because you have failed in the most profound way to meet those integrity obligations by your own admission,” Mr Redlich said.
Mr Aziz said he rejected the allegations and trashing of his reputation.
“Sure, I failed to declare a conflict of interest on a few occasions but my intention was not malicious nor was it intended to profit from my job,” he said.
The inquiry continues on Wednesday.