IBAC hauls first Saudi-based witnesses to Ultranet hearings

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IBAC hauls first Saudi-based witnesses to Ultranet hearings

Targets grilled over share purchases.

A cohort of former Victorian Ultranet officials now based at the same school in Saudi Arabia will be grilled by the state’s corruption watchdog as it combs over deals allegedly signed between mates.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) today called former Ultranet board member Ron Lake and his partner and fellow former education official Julie Baker to the stand.

Lake was director general of a system of prestigious English language schools in the Saudi capital, which is run under the tutelage of Crown Prince Mohammed Ibn Salman Ibn Abdelaziz.

The Riyadh school network is also the latest stop for his former Victorian colleagues Darrell Fraser, Dianne Peck and Ben Cushing.

Lake has been accused of buying shares in successful Ultranet bidder, Darwin-based IT provider CSG, despite being a member of the Ultranet board at the time.

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Baker, who worked with Lake at the Department of Education’s Loddon Mallee Regional Office at the time, also bought shares in CSG.

The pair worked in the prestigious Saudi schools group alongside former Education deputy secretary and the man at the heart of the Ultranet probe, Darrell Fraser.

IBAC is remaining tight-lipped about its witness schedule, and has not confirmed whether Fraser, or any of the other former Ultranet officials based overseas, will be summoned to the stand.

The corruption watchdog has the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.

Yesterday's IBAC session heard from Ian Morrison, who also bought shares in CSG after receiving a tip-off from his “closest friend”, high-ranking Department of Education executive John Allman.

Morrison sunk $10,000 into 11,200 CSG shares on 27 May 2009, despite not having traded on the market for 20 years prior and having never heard of the IT services company.

The hot tip earnt him a tidy dividend of just over $12,000 when he sold the shares 10 months later.

He said Allman had purchased 12,300 shares two days prior, and one day before the Department of Education’s contract with CSG was publicly announced to the market.

Allman sold his on shareholding on the same day as Morrison for $24,500.  

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