Fremantle Ports Corruption Investigation – Update, New Charges

WA Police have announced today that Financial Crimes Squad detectives have charged two further people as part of their ongoing investigation into alleged corruption at Fremantle Ports.

The main focus of the investigation remains centred on a former Fremantle Ports employee, Giacomo (Jack) Merolla and his family.

The full extent of the financial benefit gained by those involved in the fraudulent activity is still being assessed. However to date approximately $5,200,000.00 has been identified as being transferred overseas to bank accounts controlled by shelf companies created by Mr Merolla.

Here’s a link to 6PR’s earlier story concerning the charges levelled against 54-year-old Mr Merolla and his 54-year-old wife Daniela Merolla.

Mr and Mrs Merollas are the subject of arrest warrants. It is understood they still remain outside Australia.

Inquiries continue into the full extent of the alleged offending.

Investigators continue to work closely with foreign law enforcement agencies, including Interpol, as well as other Australian law enforcement agencies in the investigation of this matter.

The broader scope of the current investigation being conducted includes exploring all facets of the alleged scheme including people who may have assisted or facilitated the fraudulent activity. This includes contactors associated with the alleged corrupt activity.

As a result of the broader investigation two contractors previously engaged by Fremantle Ports have been charged with corruption offences.

Contractor 1
It will be alleged the owner of an electrical services business, who was previously engaged as a contractor (sub-contractor) to Fremantle Ports, acted in conjunction with the former employee to engage in corrupt practices which provided a benefit to both.

It will be further alleged the former employee sent fraudulent invoices to the contractor from a private business he had registered. The contractor would subsequently invoice Fremantle Ports for that amount and an additional margin on top for himself. The former employee approved the invoices for payment. The contractor extracted his fee (the additional margin added) and transferred the remaining funds to the favour of the former employee.

It will be alleged this took place on 33 occasions between January 2019 and February 2020. The amounts paid by the contractor into the former employee’s private business bank account ranged from $308.00 to $3,653.32. In total just over $37,000.00 was paid into accounts owned by the Fremantle Ports employee, while the Contractor received just over $3,700.00 in payments. There is no record of work being completed for the margin added.
A 44-year-old man from Southern River has been charged with 33 counts of ‘Public Officer Acts Corruptly in Performance/Discharge of Functions’ and he is due to appear in the Armadale Magistrates Court today, Tuesday 15 September 2020.

Contractor 2
It will be alleged the owner of a marine services business, who was engaged as a contractor (supplier) to Fremantle Ports, acted in conjunction with a former employee to engage in corrupt practices which provided a benefit to both.

It will be further alleged the former employee sent fraudulent invoices to the contractor from a private business he had registered. The contractor would subsequently invoice Fremantle Ports for that amount and an additional margin on top for himself. The former employee approved the invoices for payment. The contractor extracted his fee (the additional margin added) and transferred the remaining funds to the favour of the former employee.
It will be alleged this took place on 13 occasions between January 2019 and December 2019. The amounts paid by the contractor into the former employee’s private business bank account ranged from $550.00 to $4,290.00. In total just over $32,000.00 was paid into accounts owned by the former employee, while the contractor received just over $3,700.00 in payments for the margin added.

A 36-year-old man from Edgewater has been charged with 13 counts of ‘Public Officer Acts Corruptly in Performance/Discharge of Functions’ and he is due to appear in the Joondalup Magistrates Court tomorrow, Wednesday 16 September 2020.

Investigators continue to work closely with foreign law enforcement agencies, including Interpol, as well as other Australian law enforcement agencies in the investigation of this matter.

Neither of the accused contractors are ‘employees’ of Fremantle Ports, however due to the alleged offences being linked to the actions of a former Fremantle Ports employee – who was a public officer – they are charged with the same public officer corruption offence.

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