1999 Secret pay-off claim as tycoons clash
PROPERTY king Lang Walker secretly paid political donations to stitch up lucrative land deals, a former business partner told a court yesterday.
Developer Robert Hogarth, who is suing the tycoon for $48 million, accused Mr Walker of manipulating him to hide $220,000 in gifts to the NSW Liberal, National and Labor parties a few weeks before the 1995 State election.
The accusation, which stems from a failed $20 million land deal between the two entrepreneurs, emerged at the beginning of a major NSW Supreme Court case.
Two of the nation's premier silks, Bob Ellicott QC, for Mr Hogarth, and Alec Shand QC, for Mr Walker, will argue the case before Justice Clifford Einstein, alongside a bevy of junior barristers and instructing solicitors.
``I'm shaking in my shoes,'' Mr Shand said yesterday as Mr Ellicott prepared to outline his breach-of-contract case.
``It's not your shoes that should be shaking -- you're an intrepid warrior,'' Mr Ellicott replied.
Mr Walker, whose fortune is estimated at up to $315 million, allegedly won approval from the NSW Coalition government for an inner-Sydney housing project in March 1995.
Earlier that month, Mr Walker is alleged to have secretly donated $100,000 to the Liberal Party and $20,000 to the National Party. In a statement of claim tendered to the court, Mr Hogarth said Mr Walker used their joint-venture company, Rosamond, as a ``front'' to make the gift, along with a $100,000 donation to the NSW Labor Party.
The then planning minister, Robert Webster, approved a Walker Corporation development in Balmain on March 20, the statement says. ``At the time the political donations were made, Walker Corporation was seeking and was hoping to obtain substantial benefit from political consent to proposals for rezoning and development of lands in NSW.''
Mr Walker and Walker Corporation, Australia's biggest industrial property developer, obtained ``significant financial benefit'' from the approval, Mr Ellicott told the court.
Mr Hogarth, who is suing Mr Walker, Walker Corporation chief executive Peter Dransfield and other Walker companies, alleges the tycoon falsely claimed he had the political influence to swing council approvals for the planned joint housing development, at Helensburgh, north of Wollongong on the NSW south coast.
But Mr Walker allegedly mismanaged the deal and went ahead with a plan to develop the land for his own profit, Mr Ellicott said. ``They didn't show themselves to have the expertise or the political connections they held themselves to have,'' he said.
Record Number: AUS-19990922-1-003-4294973V22
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