AWH head gave Premier $3000 Grange

ICAC told Nick Di Girolamo gave wine to O'Farrell to 'butter him up'.

The head of Australian Water Holdings gave NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell a $3000 bottle of 1959 Grange as a gift in an attempt to “butter him up”, a corruption inquiry has heard.

Nick Di Girolamo told the Independent Commission against Corruption the bottle of wine was delivered to the Premier’s home shortly after the state election in 2011.

In the accounts of Australian Water Holdings, the wine was listed as a gift to Mr O’Farrell and his wife, costing $2978.99.

Mr O’Farrell did not declare the gift on the NSW parliament’s pecuniary interest register, which requires all gifts over $500 to be declared, other than political donations and gifts from relatives.

Mr Girolamo said he had written a personal note to congratulate Mr O’Farrell “at finally getting into office after 16 long hard winters of opposition’’.

He denied it was an attempt to “grease the wheels” and to “butter up “ the Premier at the same time he wanted the government to give his company, AWH, a lucrative public-private partnership.

Counsel assisting the commission Geoffrey Watson SC asked if the gift was an attempt, “to persuade Mr O’Farrell to make some sort of decision which would favour Australian Water Holdings?” Mr Di Girolamo denied this.

He said he found the Premier’s private address by ringing his office. Challenged about why the premier’s office would hand out his home address, he said it wasn’t surprising, given his relationship with the Premier.

The vintage was the birth year of Mr O’Farrell, he said.

Mr O’Farrell is due to give evidence at the ICAC this afternoon.

Mr Di Girolamo also contradicted Senator Arthur Sinodinos, saying he would have thought that political donations would have been discussed at the board level.

Senator Sinodinos told parliament that the issue of political donations to the Liberal Party, which the ICAC says was funded by the public owned Sydney water, was never raised at a board level.

But Mr Di Girolamo said he believed it would have been part of the financials which would have gone to the board.

He denied that $95,000 of political donations was an attempt to buy favour from the Liberal party, saying his wanted AWH’s proposal considered on its merits.

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