Suspended Logan mayor Luke Smith
Suspended Logan mayor Luke Smith

Fallen mayor’s night of wine, whisky and song

AUTHORITIES have taken court action to restrain suspended Logan mayor Luke Smith from selling a Tasmanian property and have frozen $20,000 in funds under proceeds-of-crime laws.

The Supreme Court application details allegations Smith also took part in a booze-fuelled night organised by a controversial Logan developer that ended at a Sunnybank karaoke bar.

The court action by the State of Queensland, lodged on Monday, seeks to restrain Smith from dealing with the assets as he is suspected to have "engaged in serious crime related activity."

Assets include Smith's Adventure Bay investment property in Tasmania, which he took ownership of in March 2017, and $20,000 in his wife Andrea Milberry-Smith's bank account.

Smith, 48, will also be forced to hand the Crime and Corruption Commission a list of any property he owns or owned in the past six years worth $5000 or more within 21 days.

The CCC allege that $39,000 was deposited in Mrs Milberry-Smith's bank account from the sale by Smith of a luxury power boat given to him by donor and developer SKL Cables.

SKL Cables are alleged in court documents to have also supplied Smith free meals and drinks, including in February 2016, when the company hosted a night of food, "expensive wine" and later supplied Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky "in quantity" at a Sunnybank karaoke bar.

The mayor was elected in March 2016 but was charged with corruption and perjury by the CCC a year later over his dealings with SKL Cables. He was suspended on full pay in May.

Logan mayor Luke Smith leaves the Beenleigh courts
Logan mayor Luke Smith leaves the Beenleigh courts

SKL Cables donated $40,500 to Smith's campaign and raised another $35,000 via a fundraiser.

Smith is alleged to have corruptly agreed to receive a 2012 Sea Ray 240 Sundeck Bowrider powerboat to progress the development approval of SKL's proposed hotel at Springwood.

Court documents show the boat's registration was transferred from SKL Cables' director Zhiming Mai to Smith in August 2016. Mai bought the boat in 2014 for a discounted $81,000.

Smith's campaign adviser Mark Pascoe has provided a statement alleging Smith told him that SKL Cables "wanted to give me a boat" and that Smith told him he had instead paid well below market value for it.

But te CCC found no evidence Smith paid for the boat and it was not on his council register.

Smith authorised the sale of the boat in May last year. It was listed for $59,960, but sold in August last year for $46,000, minus a $7000 sales commission.

The for-sale ad for Luke Smith’s boat
The for-sale ad for Luke Smith’s boat

The $39,000 sale funds were deposited into Smith's wife's bank account, say the CCC.

Smith in May 2016 voted in favour of a town plan for Springwood that included building height and carparking relaxations, as well as reducing infrastructure charges by up to $1 million, that would benefit the SKL Cable's Springwood development proposal.

He is yet to file a court response but has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to defend the charges.

Campaign funds rolled in:

Smith set up a fund, Logan Futures, to finance his campaign. He was the sole beneficiary.

The fund collected $377,833, including $40,500 in donations from SKL Cables.

According to court documents, Smith allegedly attended numerous lunch and dinner meetings at no cost with SKL Cables before the election and discussed SKL Cable's Springwood development plans.

Smith attended at least six free dinners or lunches at SKL Cables' Chinese foodcourt at Underwood with the company's Chinese-born directors, according to one affidavit by Mr Pascoe.

Mr Pascoe alleges SKL Cables picked up the tab for "expensive wine" at the restaurant and Smith once drank premium Johnnie Walker Blue Label whiskey at no cost "in quantity" at an SKL-linked karaoke bar in Sunnybank Hills until 3am in the morning.

"I was also informed that during the evening the CCTV would be turned off, I presume to protect (Smith) from any repercussions as a result of his attendance at the karaoke bar," Mr Pascoe states.

At one of the lunch meetings with SKL, Smith was allegedly shown plans for a 32-storey development at Carole Ave, Springwood and was "very supportive," according to Mr Pascoe.

SKL Cables first lodged the development application for a 15-storey project in late 2015.

The building height limit on the land at the time was 10 storeys.

"Height was a big issue for SKL Cables and the higher the better," Mr Pascoe says in his affidavit. At a lower height the project was not economically feasible.

"(Smith) did however convince SKL Cables to lower the height of the proposed building to 15 storeys.

"We all knew and discussed the current limiting height restrictions of 10 storeys, but (Smith) discussed on numerous times that he would have the votes to get the approval and make an exception for SKl Cables."

Mr Pascoe alleges Smith later told him to ask SKL for a $35,000 donation and SKL paid the money.

He says Smith later asked for another $35,000 to be arranged, but SKL Cables' director Ruqiang (Jorce) Yu instead offered to organize a large fundraiser.

SKL Cables' Jorce Ruqiang
SKL Cables' Jorce Ruqiang

It is alleged about $35,000 was raised for Smith from an auction at the fundraiser, held just before the March 2016 council elections, at an Underwood Chinese eatery linked to the company.

About 150 guests attended and auction items included a pen, bottles of wine, Greg Norman-signed golf clubs and a Chinese artwork.

Court documents include an affidavit by Logan councillor Lisa Bradley, who alleges Mr Smith publicly spoke of his support for SKL's development proposal for Springwood a month before the election.

She says she first became suspicious of Smith's involvement with SKL Cables at this point.

She filmed Smith at the Logan Chamber of Commerce breakfast, where she alleges he told those present that he was aware of a live development application for a 15-storey building in Carol Ave (in Springwood) and had "worked behind the scenes to get them to the stage they're in."

Smith has since been charged with perjury over allegations he gave false testimony at a CCC public hearing to the effect he did not know of the 15-storey proposal before the election.

Suspended Logan mayor Luke Smith outside his father’s place, where he is now living. Picture: Annette Dew
Suspended Logan mayor Luke Smith outside his father’s place, where he is now living. Picture: Annette Dew

Smith makes Springwood plan a post-election priority:

Two months after his election, Smith moved a motion to allocate $50,000 to holding a Springwood summit, attended by SKL Cables representatives, who were then pushing for height relaxations.

According to Mr Pascoe, who worked as a policy advisor at council from May-December 2016, the summit was "initiated to not only help grow Springwood, but to assist (Smith's) major donors to achieve relaxations in the DA process, including opening up Springwood to taller buildings."

Cr Bradley says council's planning chair, Russell Lutton, in March 2017 later overrode council officer's recommendations. He put forward new recommendations for central Springwood proposing to relax height restrictions, reduce the number of required carparks needed and cut infrastructure charges by up to $1 million.

Cr Bradley says she was "in shock that an alternative motion was presented..and not discussed with me."

The recommendations were adopted at a council meeting a week later. Smith voted in favour of the changes, which directly benefited SKL Cables' plans, Cr Bradley says.

She says council acting chief executive Todd Rohle emailed councillors rejecting the plans would benefit SKL Cables, but was later unable to "produce support his statement."

Cr Bradley told the court she later questioned Rohle again, and he acknowledged he had not read part of the recommendations around height restriction changes at the time of the email.

One of Smith's perjury charges alleges he gave false testimony to the CCC when he said his vote in march on the Springwood plan "did not apply to SKL Cables."