NSW’s corruption watchdog has found former Sydney Uni IT manager Jason Meeth corrupt over a complex labour hire contracting scheme that saw him channel $1.6 million worth of work to an associate’s company.
But the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has been unable to build a watertight case against Meeth, meaning the alleged scammer will almost certainly dodge charges by the state Director of Public Prosecution.
"The commission is not satisfied that the admissible evidence available warrants the commission seeking the advice of the DPP with respect to Mr Meeth’s prosecution for a specific offence," ICAC wrote in its official report into the inquiry, handed down today.
The burden of proof demanded by ICAC to find an individual corrupt is not as high as is required to prove guilt in the criminal courts. ICAC has no powers of its own to prosecute suspects.
The corruption watchdog began looking into Meeth’s dealings at the university in 2014 when one of the manager’s colleagues, Sean McNulty, blew the whistle on concerns Meeth had been giving preferential treatment to one particular recruitment firm.
The firm, Canberra Solutions, had placed under-qualified and over-priced contractors within the IT division.
The investigation dug up evidence that Meeth had coerced representatives of larger contracting agencies - who were certified to supply to the university - to subcontract workers from Canberra Solutions so they would appear to be legitimately placed within the uni’s ranks.
Canberra Solutions is owned by Balu Moothedath. Meeth and Moothedath first met in 2011 when Moothedath was working for a multinational company that supplied services to Meeth's gaming employer.
ICAC found that the contractors placed by Canberra Solutions were pocketing only roughly half of the fees paid by Sydney University, while Moothedath gouged the rest to make an alleged $800,000 from the engagement of nine of his workers at the campus.
But ICAC was unable to pin down any direct evidence that Meeth was paid in cash or any other personal benefits for his alleged favouritism towards Moothedath’s company, even though many thousands in deposits "cannot be satisfactorily resolved" and "may suggest that Mr Meeth did receive cash payments from Mr Moothedath".
For example, Moothedath was accused of laundering some of Canberra Solutions' takings through a scheme where he would pay wages to the wife of one of his contractors for work she never carried out, which was subsequently returned to him in cash.
Meeth, meanwhile, admitted to keeping as much as $15,000 in cash hidden in a tin under his bed, which he claims was the sum of gifts from his family. He deposited a total of $24,000 cash into personal bank accounts between December 2012 and November 2013.
Despite this, ICAC has been forced to concede that after having "carefully considered the available evidence, the commission has accepted .. that the fact and scale of any financial benefit flowing to Mr Meeth from Mr Moothedath cannot be established to the requisite standard".
It also said it won't refer Moothedath’s role in in the contracting saga to the DPP either, despite what it described as "unscrupulous profiteering". It stopped short of labelling him corrupt.
The Canberra Solutions owner has, however, been referred to prosecutors over the lesser offence of lying to ICAC, particularly for denying a shady meeting in his car with another ICAC witness that - unbeknownst to him - was covertly filmed by investigators.