Train boss payments probed
A Victorian public transport executive allegedly received bank transfers and cash payments from a cleaning company after it was awarded over $40 million in contracts.
James Pinder, the suspended CEO of Victoria’s regional train service V/Line is facing Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) hearings about the procurement and tendering processes between V/Line and Transclean.
“The investigation has uncovered suspected collusion by public officers,” counsel assisting the commission, Paul Lawrie, said in his opening statements.
He said there is evidence of “close, undisclosed relationships with contractors through the receipt of financial benefits”.
“Understandably, there's considerable public interest in exposing such conduct,” he said.
The inquiry is looking at Transclean's commercial relationship with V/Line, city service provider Metro and “possibly other public transport bodies”.
The hearings will call Transclean’s co-owner, George Haritos, and suspended Metro Trains fleet manager Peter Bollas.
The commission has been told that the three men “appear to have formed a close group in their professional lives”, allegedly using a covert communication system to conduct business dealings for mutual benefit.
“For a period of nearly four years, James Pinder and George Haritos have used a pair of burner mobile phones, subscribed in the names of Transclean associates, to communicate secretly with each other, and with Peter Bollas, thereby attempting to keep the trio's dealings beyond detection,” Mr Lawrie told the inquiry.
Mr Pinder and Mr Bollas allegedly received cash payments “suspected to be linked to various opportunistic dealings by both James Pinder and Peter Bollas, using their positions to financially benefit Transclean and themselves”.
There were “several structured payments between late 2018 and early 2019 totalling $320,000 which went towards the purchase of [Mr Pinder's] property and which ultimately trace back to Transclean,” Mr Lawrie said in his opening.
Mr Pinder at one point said he did not know “specifically” where the funding came from. He later acknowledged that it was a loan from “somebody that I shouldn't have asked to lend me some money”.
Neither Metro nor V/Line have commented while the IBAC proceedings are ongoing.