Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
ABC News
ABC News
state political reporter Rani Hayman and Kathleen Calderwood

Dominic Perrottet's brother Jean-Claude overseas, refuses to attend Hills Shire Council inquiry

Jean Claude Perrottet refuses to take part in the inquiry. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

A NSW parliamentary inquiry has been told that Liberal party figures Christian Ellis and Jean-Claude Perrottet, the premier's brother, sought out a $50,000 payment from a businessman as part of an effort to unseat the party's centre right factional powerbroker Alex Hawke. 

The inquiry has been looking into allegations of misconduct by members of the Hills Shire Council and property developers in the area. 

Businessman Frits Maré, also a Liberal party member, gave evidence to the committee that Mr Ellis and Jean-Claude Perrottet asked him for $50,000 to help unseat Mr Hawke, the federal member for Mitchell, who is a close ally of former prime minister Scott Morrison – an allegation revealed on the ABC's Four Corners program. 

Mr Maré told the inquiry he did not provide the money. 

The inquiry also found that Mr Ellis, his mother Hills Shire Councillor Virginia Ellis and Jean-Claude Perrottet "engaged in serious and deliberate attempts to avoid" receiving summons issued for them to appear before the committee. 

It made a similar finding about Charles Perrottet and property developer Jean Nassif, noting that they were outside of New South Wales at the time. 

Jean-Claude Perrottet was ordered to give evidence at the inquiry into allegations of impropriety against agents of the Hills Shire Council and property developers.

He has so far evaded parliamentary staff tasked with serving him, but a letter has been received by the inquiry. 

"I am overseas and I have not been served with a summons to appear at the inquiry" the letter reads. 

"Since seeing the media coverage, it is clear to me that I would never receive procedural fairness at the inquiry."

In her foreword, chair Sue Higginson, a Greens MLC, said serious allegations of corruption by Liberal Party members in the Hills went unanswered, due to a lack of cooperation from key witnesses. 

"The only way this committee could shed some light on these allegations is for those involved to come forward and give their account," she said. 

"Their co-ordinated, deliberate and serious efforts to evade scrutiny inevitably leave the perception that there is something to hide.

"This inquiry has raised questions that are too serious to leave unanswered simply because this parliament has run its course."

The report recommended that a new inquiry be established following the election, and that is should call on Christian Ellis, Charles Perrottet, Jean-Claude Perrottet and Jean Nassif to give evidence. 

It also recommended the minister for local government investigate the Hills Shire Council and that the influence of property developers and others in legal, political and democratic processes in the region be referred to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The Greens' Sue Higginson chaired the inquiry. (By Nick Lowther)

A dissenting statement from Nationals MP Scott Barrett called the report a politically motivated hit job by Labor and the Greens.

"None of the allegations made appeared to have any evidence to substantiate them and timelines were set based around obtaining headlines during an election period," Mr Barrett said. 

The inquiry was launched after Liberal MP for Castle Hill Ray Williams alleged members of his party had been "paid significant funds" to install new councillors in the Hills area.

Speaking under parliamentary privilege in June, Mr Williams alleged the move benefited the development company Toplace. 

Jean-Claude Perrottet is a factional figure of the Liberal Party in the area. 

"This has been an extremely distressing time for me," the letter read. 

"The stress has been exacerbated by calls to the public to report my whereabouts.

"I will not be taking part in the inquiry ... the allegations made against me are completely false."

The inquiry chair has questioned the legitimacy of the letter, telling ABC Radio Sydney the inquiry is investigating its source.

"It's just words on paper at the moment and it was received at an office," Greens MLC Sue Higginson said. 

"Hence why we are testing the provenance and the veracity of the words on the paper.

Ms Higginson has since confirmed Jean-Claude Perrottet emailed the committee saying the letter was sent by him. 

Jean-Claude Perrottet is not the only person who has refused to give evidence after being called to appear at the inquiry.

Private firms were engaged to locate him, his brother Charles Perrottet and Virginia and Christian Ellis.

Neither Virginia Ellis nor her son have been found.

Charles Perrottet emailed the committee last week, where he labelled the inquiry "partisan" and "defamatory". 

"I will not be participated in your Labor/Greens circus," the email read. 

"I am a resident of Victoria. I have resided in Victoria since January 2021."

The director of Toplace, Jean Nassif, wrote two letters to the inquiry, where he denied the allegations made by Mr Williams. 

He also said he had received legal advice not to appear via video link, while overseas in Lebanon during the hearings. 

In its final hearing on Thursday, Edward River Councillor Shirlee Burge gave evidence that she and members of the local Liberal branch reported concerns it was being stacked to the party's state office. 

Ms Burge said Mr Ellis moved to the area in the state's south west, telling her he wanted to be the next federal MP there — replacing Sussan Ley — and the local branch is now dominated by what she called the 'Ellis faction'. 

"I thought he was a little bit cocky, but not an unpleasant person to meet," she said, recounting their first meeting. 

"I was a bit perturbed when I said 'follow the local member for 12 months, I'll introduce you', and he was adamant he wanted to be the member straight away. 

"I do believe his credibility may have waned a bit, I believe he's hiding out in the forest as there have been sightings of him driving a vehicle known to be his, wearing a mask, there have also been unusual activity in the forest behind his property."

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.