LUCKY GATTELLARI was anything but lucky when it came to business deals.
A corruption inquiry heard yesterday that despite paying more than $130,000 in bribes to three members of the Wagonga Aboriginal Land Council, at Narooma, on the south coast, to gain property development rights over four blocks of land, the developments came to nothing.
Mr Gattellari was the first witness in the Independent Commission Against Corruption's inquiry into dealings between Mr Gattellari and his then business partner, millionaire developer Ron Medich, and members of the Wagonga land council.
Mr Medich is alleged to have provided the cash used by Mr Gattellari to bribe former council chairman Ron Mason, his daughter Vanessa, the present CEO, and former co-ordinator Ken Foster.
Mr Gattellari told the commission yesterday that Mr Medich provided him with cash to ''butter up'' members of the land council in order to acquire prime parcels of land, including a beachfront property at Narooma.
Mr Gattellari said his associate Ronnie Binge had introduced him to the Wagonga executives, as well as officials from other land councils, suggesting they might be amenable to doing deals.
In April 2005, Mr Gattellari and Mr Binge went to Mr Medich's mansion, in Point Piper, where they collected more than $50,000 in cash in case they needed ''to butter some people up'', Mr Gattellari told the inquiry.
However, he and Mr Binge had driven only 100 metres down Wolseley Road when they were stopped by police who were investigating a robbery. Police located $20,000 in cash in a brown paper bag in the front seat and $33,000 in the boot.
The two men explained the cash had been given to them by Mr Medich for deposits on land at Narooma.
Sergeant Robert Toovey, of Rose Bay police, told the inquiry yesterday he had gone to Mr Medich's house to verify the pair's story.
He said Mr Medich had confirmed the cash was for deposits to buy land at Narooma and Nowra. The trip to Narooma was delayed when police discovered Mr Binge, also known as Ronald Jefferies, had been disqualified from driving for a year in 1993 and had not renewed his licence.
Ken Foster, one of the officials at the centre of the present corruption inquiry, was accused of similar behaviour while at another land council.
A Herald investigation previously revealed Mr Foster was one of three La Perouse land council officials who received payments of $250 a week for two years until July 2002. The payments were made by a consortium of Sydney developers hoping to develop prime land at La Perouse.
Mr Foster and the other two officials collected payments totalling more than $25,000.
Although those payments were referred to the ICAC in 2004, the corruption watchdog decided no formal investigation was warranted.