Former Casey mayor Sam Aziz tells IBAC probe cash payments came from gambling, family business

A former City of Casey councillor accused of taking bribes from a property developer has told a corruption inquiry more than $300,000 in cash payments came from his keno gambling and his family dental practice.

Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) is investigating allegations high-flying developer John Woodman bribed City of Casey councillors to vote in favour of his planning projects.

Former mayor Sam Aziz deposited around $300,000 in cash payments into his bank account over a two-year period, and another $20,000 in cheques from the Zagames chain of gaming venues, the inquiry heard.

Counsel assisting IBAC, Michael Tovey, told the inquiry the deposits began arriving in Mr Aziz’s bank accounts in September 2016, around the same time he started “assisting” Mr Woodman with his planning project in Cranbourne West known as C219 — something Mr Aziz denies.

Mr Aziz was unable to explain where each of the individual cash payments, which were deposited in varying amounts under $10,000, came from.

“You say all that cash came from the dental practice, and the Zagames cheques arose because of keno winnings?” Mr Tovey asked.

“The simple answer is yes,” Mr Aziz said.

Aziz tells IBAC he went to gaming venue to ‘chill’

Mr Aziz told the inquiry he had marriage problems and he would often go to Zagames to take time to “chill” by himself, but he could not recall how much money he put into keno games.

He denied suggestions he was laundering money and turning cash into cheques.

“You didn’t ever structure your payments in a way to keep it below a certain level, or you didn’t structure them in a way to make it look like you weren’t depositing a round sum?” Mr Tovey asked.

“Not depositing a round sum is against my nature because I do have obsessive compulsive disorder … I simply deposited what I needed to deposit and that was the end of it,” Mr Aziz replied.

Mr Aziz was unable to explain why one lot of cash deposits he made into his bank account totalled $9,950.

“I don’t know why it added up to $9,950, but it wasn’t because I was trying to avoid attention by AUSTRAC,” Mr Aziz said without lawyers mentioning the financial watchdog.

AUSTRAC’s “reporting threshold” for cash transactions is $10,000.

Mr Aziz told the inquiry the rest of the cash was most likely proceeds from his family dental practice, where his ex-wife worked. They sold the practice in 2016.

He said customers would often pay in cash to avoid paying EFTPOS fees.

Mr Aziz, who was on the City of Casey council when it was sacked earlier this year, has previously been accused of lying to the inquiry and providing fabricated documents in an attempt to hide money.