Victorian Liberal Party denies involvement in fundraiser linked to alleged Melbourne mafia boss

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Russell Broadbent

PHOTO: Mr Broadbent refused to comment on reports about the fundraiser. (Alan Porritt: AAP).    State political reporter Alison Savage 23 May 2014.   The Victorian Liberal Party has distanced itself from a fundraiser reportedly organised by an alleged mafia boss which was attended by several Liberal MPs.

The Age newspaper reports a man with known links to the Calabrian mafia helped host a fundraiser for the Liberal campaign for the federal seat of Bruce in March last year.  Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy was reportedly a guest speaker at the event and other MPs, including federal Liberal MP Russell Broadbent, attended the function.

The Age claims the mafia figure, who can not be identified, has been named as a suspected hit-man in two coronial inquests in the 1990s, and identified by police as the leader of a well-established mafia cell in Melbourne.  The Victorian Liberal Party says the event to raise money for Liberal candidate Emanuele Cicchiello was organised without the help of the party’s head office.

“The claims made in Fairfax newspapers today relate to a fundraising event that the Liberal Party head office had no role in organising,” a spokesman said.  “In addition, the party did not prepare or vet the guest list for the event.   “The Liberal Party always conducts its fundraising ethically and fully adheres to AEC disclosure laws.”

Mr Broadbent has refused to comment on the report.  Napthine says he knows nothing about fundraiser.  Premier Denis Napthine said the fundraiser, which happened days before he became Premier, had nothing to do with him.  “These are allegations that have been raised that I know nothing about,” he said.

“These questions are best directed to the Liberal Party itself who organises these fundraising events.  “It was a candidate for a federal election, so I know nothing about these matters.”  A spokeswoman for Mr Guy said he had no role in the event, beyond being a guest speaker.   “The Minister was invited to attend the function by the Liberal campaign for Bruce,” the spokeswoman said.

“The Minister had no role in organising the event or its guest list.”  Other state Liberal MPs, including former speaker Ken Smith, have reportedly attended functions linked to the mafia figure.  Premier, Minister ‘have questions to answer’  Labor’s James Merlino says the Premier and Mr Guy have questions to answer.

“You cannot be a headline act of a major Liberal Party fundraiser and not know who the audience is,” he said.  “Matthew Guy and Denis Napthine have questions to answer.”  Mr Merlino said Victoria’s anti-corruption watchdog, IBAC, would be unable to investigate the allegations because its current brief is too narrow.  The Government is in the process of reviewing the powers of IBAC, after the body’s commissioner called for them to be expanded.

In 2004, the Victorian Labor Party was embarrassed by underworld connections at a fundraiser.  A company owned by gangland figure Mick Gatto bought sponsored a table at an ALP event, prompting the former Labor government to promise better background checks on people who attend Labor Party events.

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