01 Jul 2020
Another major corruption scandal has rocked the West Australian public service, with an arrest warrant issued for a Fremantle Ports worker and his wife who are believed to have fled the country.
Police have also arrested and charged the couple’s children over their alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar rort.
While the parents are believed to have fled Australia, their children face years in jail for their alleged role laundering property in the scheme, which could date back as far as 2014.
Police alleged there was enough evidence to suggest Giacomo ‘Jack’ Merolla, a navigation aids and maintenance manager at the port, raised false invoices for several shelf companies in Australia and overseas, “directing monies to his own benefit”.
Mr Merolla’s role involved maintaining beacons, lighthouses and other navigation aids used to enter and exit the harbour safely.
A probe by financial crime detectives started after Fremantle Ports reported concerns over the activity of the employee in February.
Police swooped on two properties and a storage facility linked to the family, where they allegedly found more than $70,000 in cash hidden in a lockbox.
They also allegedly uncovered evidence of corrupt business practices dating back to 2014, including the use of shelf companies to redirect public funds to bank accounts controlled by Mr Merolla.
While the extent of the rort was still being investigated, police alleged it involved several contracts worth more than a million dollars in total.
“To date, more than one million has been identified as being transferred to bank accounts controlled by the shelf companies,” a police spokesman said.
On Tuesday, detectives issued an arrest warrant for Mr Merolla and his wife Daniela, 54, who have since fled the country and attempted to get rid of their Australian assets, including their Woodvale home. Police believe the pair travelled to South Africa, where they lived previously.
Mr Merolla is facing 23 counts of corruption and 34 of property laundering. Daniella is facing 24 counts of property laundering.
The couple’s children, Paolo Vincenzo Merolla, 23, and Tiziana Merolla, 28, faced Perth Magistrates Court on Tuesday charged with seven and two counts of property laundering, respectively.
By Marta Pascual Juanola, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 2020
Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald
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