Adem Somyurek to be questioned today in public IBAC hearings

Former Victorian government minister Adem Somyurek will face four days in the witness box of an anti-corruption hearing this week, over his role in allegedly misusing taxpayer-funded staff and grants to grow his internal power base in the Labor Party.

Mr Somyurek is being investigated as part of an Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and Victorian Ombudsman probe into “serious corrupt conduct” involving public officers, and what counsel assisting, Chris Carr, SC, had described as the “premeditated and systematic rorting of taxpayer resources”.

Former government minister Adem Somyurek will be questioned at public IBAC hearings this week. Credit:Jason South

It comes as The Age can reveal the former Labor Party powerbroker will no longer be represented by a barrister at this week’s hearing. Mr Somyurek has parted ways with his barrister Remy van de Wiel, QC, ahead of the crucial public hearing.

“Remy and I had agreed that a QC is overkill for this inquiry as my counsel’s ability to cross-examine witnesses has been severely curtailed,” Mr Somyurek said.

“The effect of this is the lies that have been told have been reported in the media without me being given a chance to refute them. I have a great deal of respect for Remy’s experience and ability, and will look at re-engaging him if the matter goes any further.”

All other witnesses have been represented by barristers during the public hearings. Given the examinations were being live-streamed on a 30-minute delay, Mr Somyurek was unable to cross-examine people in real time.

Federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne was summoned to appear for a second day of hearings to be questioned by Mr van de Wiel. At one point during the hearings, Commissioner Robert Redlich told Mr van de Wiel that Mr Somyurek could be heard off-camera giving instructions.

“I would prefer some level of separation for this exercise,” Mr van de Wiel told the hearing. “I’m not suggesting anything prejudicial against him, I quite like him, but sometimes I wish he’d slow down.”

Mr van de Wiel declined to comment when contacted by The Age, but confirmed he was no longer working for Mr Somyurek.

Mr Somyurek has been accused of overseeing an industrial-scale branch stacking operation, recruiting inexperienced ministerial staff for factional activities, hiring people who would not turn up to work, and verbally abusing those in his inner circle.

Counsel assisting Chris Carr, SC, has said IBAC is ultimately investigating the “premeditated and systematic rorting of taxpayer resources”.

He will be examined on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Premier Daniel Andrews would not comment on Sunday, saying the matters were subject to an IBAC investigation and that he would not be providing commentary while the hearings were under way.

“IBAC has a very important job to do, they’re doing that job, I’m not going to enter into the debate about those issues, nor am I going to be a commentator on it,” Mr Andrews said on Sunday.

“Let’s just let IBAC do its work, then they can provide a report with findings, with advice to the government. There may be all manner of different things that they say to us, ‘you need to improve, you need to change’. The best thing to do is let them do that.”

IBAC has heard Mr Somyurek’s Moderate Labor strategy was to confect allegations of racism when journalists would ask questions about alleged wrongdoing within their group.

In his evidence, Mr Byrne said Mr Somyurek’s factional power almost developed into an existential threat for the Labor Party. He said the former Labor MP was coercing staff into doing things they did not want to, and the party was “being taken over by one person whose sole objective was power and power alone”.

Mr Byrne said he understood Mr Somyurek had threatened to “remove the preselections” of Labor MPs Pauline Richards and Gabrielle Williams.

Mr Somyurek has rejected the allegations.

“The problem with IBAC is that it hasn’t spoken to important people in the investigation and is basing its public examination on propaganda,” Mr Somyurek wrote on Twitter. “That’s why today they ended up on the wrong side of this dispute. Talk about making a mockery out of a serious integrity body.”

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