The Western Australian corruption watchdog has confiscated millions of dollars worth of assets from former senior public servant Paul Whyte, including his interest in a government superannuation fund of $1.4 million.
The former Department of Communities assistant director general pleaded guilty to 530 corruption charges in June after it was alleged he had stolen more than $22 million in public funds, in what has been described as “the most serious case of public sector corruption in Australia”.
The state Corruption and Crime Commission on Thursday said the Supreme Court has made a criminal benefits declaration against Whyte as a result of the charges, including a property laundering charge.
“The criminal benefit acquired by Mr Whyte, to the exclusion of others who benefitted from the commission of his confiscation offences, is assessed as and declared to be just over $11 million,” it said.
“The commission has now been successful in obtaining a criminal benefits declaration and confiscation orders prior to Mr Whyte being criminally convicted and sentenced in a superior court.”
The CCC said two Mosman Park properties worth $4.26 million have been confiscated, as well as Whyte’s interest in a government superannuation fund of $1.4 million, with taxes and fees to be deducted from that amount. Whyte’s interest in his father’s deceased estate — which includes a Scarborough property — and “other monies arising from his interest in horses” have also been confiscated.
Last year the CCC and WA Police alleged Whyte and physiotherapist Jacob Anthonisz had stolen the public funds through fake invoices paid to three companies that had no employees. One of the largest payments was made in 2012, when 26 invoices were submitted to the Department of Communities and $2.7 million was paid to one of the companies.
The watchdog on Thursday said the Supreme Court order and regulatory changes were “the latest chapter” in a long-running CCC investigation initiated by former commissioner John McKechnie in mid 2019.
McKechnie’s role as commissioner came to an end earlier this year when the parliamentary committee tasked with appointing a CCC chief refused to endorse him, despite being backed by the premier and the state opposition leader.
This week the CCC also resolved its first unexplained wealth matter, after the Supreme Court made an unexplained wealth declaration for almost $630,000 and ordered the confiscation of cash and assets, including a Ferrari motor vehicle and Rolex watches. The assets have been frozen since September 2019.
The matter was referred to the CCC last year by the WA Police Force after its Organised Crime Squad investigated three people, who cannot be named. The probe did not lead to criminal charges.
There are currently $13-15 million in assets which are subject to Supreme Court freezing orders by the CCC, relating to eight investigations, the commission said. As of September 30, it had received 93 referrals from commonwealth and state agencies, the WA Police Force, the public, and from its own activities.
The early resolution of cases can deliver a return to the state and “avoids the need for costly and time-consuming Supreme Court trials”, the commission noted. It said that while it has used its existing resources to conduct unexplained wealth investigations since 2018, it hopes to expand its work in this area.
“With results and benefits now being realised, this will inform a review required of the commission by September 2021 to secure additional resources to continue and expand this complex but important area of its operations,” it said.