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Sacked V/Line chief executive James Pinder deposited large sums of money into his bank account just days after returning to Australia from living overseas, with new evidence raising further questions of possible misconduct around lucrative contracts awarded to Metro and V/Line.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission on Tuesday continued to probe Marie Tsakopoulos, a contract manager who handled the relationship between cleaning company Transclean and V/Line.
At one point during the hearings she was accused of being a “facilitator” for Transclean boss George Haritos as he sought to organise payments and burner phones for Mr Pinder and others.
The commission has for months been probing allegations of serious misconduct surrounding the company, including whether Mr Pinder allegedly accepted kickbacks to help secure business.
Mr Haritos has previously claimed the cash payments were made out of a gambling syndicate.
Speaking at public hearings, counsel assisting IBAC Paul Lawrie probed Ms Tsakopoulos on a series of transactions in late 2016.
The commission heard that she withdrew tens of thousands of dollars of cash on December 5 that year and that Mr Pinder then made a sizable deposit into his bank.
Later that week, he received a burner phone that has been used as evidence in the corruption investigations.
Former V/Line chief executive James Pinder. Picture: Alison Wynd
“By the time he gets back into Australia, you don’t know you owe him any money do you?” Mr Lawrie said.
“Two days before you give the phone to Mr Pinder, shortly after he’s arrived in Australia, you withdraw $35,000 in cash and he receives $10,500.
“I suggest to you this, Ms Tsakopolous, you’re really a facilitator for George Haritos.
“When he needs things to happen, when he needs payments to be made of this nature or phones to be delivered, you’re the person that facilitates that.”
But Ms Tsakopolous denied there was a link and said the money was probably withdrawn to buy expensive jewelry.
“It looks like a coincidence to me,” she said.
“I could only think at that time I bought a ring ... A diamond ring.
“I don’t recall giving him cash.”
The commission also heard further evidence about hundreds of thousands of dollars transferred to Mr Pinder from people linked to Transclean to help him secure a home loan.
Text messages were shown in which Mr Haritos talks to Ms Tsakopolous’ sister about transaction details to secure a payment of $100,000 to the then V/Line executive.
But when Ms Tsakopolous denied any knowledge of these conversations, she was cautioned by a frustrated IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich AM.
“You are talking with Mr Haritos the entire time about all of this,” he said.
“Why can you not accept the obvious?
“Listen to me. You wouldn’t be doing what you were doing and George couldn’t be doing what he was doing in relation to the same purpose unless you were talking to each other about it.”
Ms Tsakopolous was also quizzed about a new burner phone she provided to Mr Pinder after IBAC investigators raided his house.
When asked why the group had decided to start using WhatsApp to communicate after this event, she admitted it was because she didn’t want investigators reading “private conversations”.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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