Ex-Ipswich mayor testifies in fraud case
A former Ipswich mayor on trial for dishonestly using ratepayer funds to buy good at charity auctions has denied his cash-splash was to buy votes.
Giving evidence in Ipswich Magistrates Court on Tuesday, Andrew Francis Antoniolli, 48, rebuffed prosecutor Sarah Farnden when she asked if he purchased the items at the auctions to benefit his popularity.
“I think that’s a very cynical view,” he said.
“To be an effective councillor you have to be more than just popping up at birthday parties and charity events.”
Antoniolli is charged with 12 counts of fraud and one count of attempted fraud for using Ipswich City Council money to buy items and services for his own use.
He denies all the charges.
The charges followed a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation that led to the sacking of the entire council in 2018.
Antoniolli allegedly used the funds to purchase items at charity auctions and community events between 2005 and 2017, while he was a councillor and mayor.
The items include a $5000 Trek bicycle, various artworks, a gym membership and two ladies pamper packs.
The court has heard some of the goods were donated to community groups for reuse to raise charity funds.
Others remained at council to decorate Antoniolli’s office or were placed in storage.
The Trek bicycle was located at Antoniolli’s home but he denies riding it.
Antoniolli said bidding on and buying goods at auction was a way of supporting charities working in the Ipswich community.
Whose money was being used to pay for the items purchased at the events was rarely discussed, he said.
“We had been using the practice for many years,” he said.
The court heard Antoniolli often didn’t tell his staff about the purchases.
The court was also shown council documents that listed some of the items purchased using the council’s donations program as Antoniolli’s personal items.
Earlier, the court heard payments for the items Antoniolli bid on at auction were made using the council’s community donation funds.
Charity organisations applied for payment by filling out an application form after each event and were advised by Antoniolli’s staff not to refer to their auction.
The trial is adjourned until next Monday, when closing submissions will be heard.