Andrews reportedly probed in secret over ties to allegedly corrupt developer

Premier Daniel Andrews has reportedly been secretly questioned by anti-corruption investigators over his association with an allegedly corrupt property developer.

The Australian on Friday revealed Andrews was probed in private hearings as part of Operation Sandon, a long-running Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission investigation of alleged corruption in the City of Casey, in Melbourne’s south-east.

Daniel Andrews has reportedly been questioned by anti-corruption investigators over his association with John Woodman. Credit:Joe Armao

The revelations come a week after The Age reported IBAC also interviewed the Premier in private as part of its investigation into allegations of branch stacking in the Victorian Labor Party, dubbed Operation Watts. Both IBAC investigations were prompted by reports in The Age.

One of the focuses of Operation Sandon was whether Andrews had been given the phone number of developer John Woodman, who has been accused of doling out more than $1.2 million in corrupt payments to Casey councillors and buying political influence by pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into Labor and Liberal party coffers.

The premier changed his position during his testimony, according to The Australian, at first agreeing with Philip Staindl, a veteran Labor lobbyist who has worked closely with Woodman, that he may have provided Andrews with the developer’s phone number.

However, in response to IBAC’s suggestions that this indicated he wanted to apologise to Woodman over the planning minister’s deferral of a rezoning application, which would have resulted in a huge windfall for the developer, the premier reportedly told the anti-corruption commission it was highly unlikely that he had asked for or was given Woodman’s number.

John Woodman outside the anti-corruption commission in November 2019. Credit:Justin McManus

In response to the reports, an Andrews government spokeswoman said: “The government will not comment on an active IBAC investigation.”

Operation Sandon has been one of IBAC’s longest-running investigations and is likely to lead to sweeping recommendations for reform, especially in transparency and integrity at local government level. It conducted weeks of public hearings through late 2019 and 2020.

The commission has distributed a draft report to people who have been interviewed as part of the probe to give them a reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations levelled against them.

“The Operation Sandon draft special report is currently going through a natural justice process,” an IBAC spokeswoman said.

“IBAC will not be making any further comment on the investigation.”

The commission had been expected to release its findings early this year. However, former Casey mayor Amanda Stapledon, who had been questioned by IBAC over dealings with Woodman, was found dead in a car in January, days after she received her draft from IBAC.

At the time, Victoria Police said it would prepare a report for the coroner but that the death was not being treated as suspicious.

Operation Sandon focused on the rezoning of a large parcel of industrial land to residential in Cranbourne West, a suburb in the City of Casey.

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