Officers from the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) have executed a search warrant on the Logan City Council, south of Brisbane, and addressed councillors about the watchdog’s ongoing investigation.
The council is still being investigated by the CCC as part of Operation Belcarra, with the corruption watchdog issuing a damning report in October on the conduct of some candidates in the 2016 Gold Coast, Moreton and Ipswich council elections.
Under Operation Belcarra’s terms of reference, the CCC was to investigate whether candidates in the elections “unlawfully influenced a council decision in relation to a development application in favour of a donor”.
In June, Logan Mayor Luke Smith appeared before Belcarra’s public hearings, answering questions about his relationship with campaign donors.
Last month the ABC reported that internal emails and file notes obtained under a Right to Information request appeared to show that Cr Smith lobbied his own council to support a massive development by one of his key campaign donors.
The ABC understands developer Liansheng Yue donated more than $80,000 to Cr Smith’s Logan Futures campaign fund, the bulk of it for his successful mayoral campaign, which was launched in 2015.
Mr Yue’s company was behind the $750 million Carbrook resort development, known as The Lakes.
Council emails and file notes obtained by the ABC appear to contradict Cr Smith’s sworn evidence to the Belcarra hearings that he had no involvement with Mr Yue’s development within council after receiving the donations.
An email written by a senior council officer in December 2015 stated that “Luke is pushing for the letter of support to go out to the Yue’s — ostensibly for raising finance”.
The expanded development application for The Lakes was lodged in 2016 and approved earlier this year. (Supplied: The Lakes)
Mayor Smith has previously told the ABC that an independent audit through the Local Government Association of Queensland confirmed he had no involvement in the approval of the project earlier this year.
Logan Councillor Darren Power said the CCC officers addressed a meeting of councillors on Monday afternoon to inform them they were executing a six-page search warrant.
“About one o’clock we were in a budget meeting … and we had a visit from a CCC officer who then asked if he could address us, which he did, and he advised us that the council had been served with a warrant for search and then he expanded on that,” Cr Power said.
Cr Power told the ABC the warrant detailed 45 “areas of concern” the CCC is looking into, including Mr Yue’s company’s The Lakes development.
He said the CCC warrant sought information BOOKr.VIP to The Lakes development “referencing all aspects of communication between officers and the Mayor”.
“It [the warrant] doesn’t’ specifically say what they’re looking for, only in relation to that specific subject,” he said.
In a statement to the ABC, Mayor Smith said: “I will happily assist with any investigation, as I have always done.”
Cr Power said a donor to Mayor Smith SKL Cables and an address on Carol Avenue owned by that company were also mentioned.
A CCC spokesman told the ABC he could confirm they “executed a search warrant at Logan City Council today relating to an ongoing investigation”.
“As the investigation is ongoing, it is not appropriate for the CCC to comment further.”
Cr Power said six CCC officers left the Mayor’s office carrying bags.
“It could have been their own bags. I don’t know but I did see them carrying stuff out,” Cr Power said.
A Logan City Council spokesperson said council had cooperated with the CCC and would continue to do so.
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