Company paid $17,000 for private eye to spy on union boss’ ex-partner

Ross Shrimpton told the royal commission- 'It is in my nature to assist people where I can image

Ross Shrimpton told the royal commission: ‘It is in my nature to assist people where I can.’ Photo: Supplied

The head of a labour hire company paid $17,000 to hire a private eye for a NSW union boss who was spying on his former partner, a royal commission has heard.

The company also paid for Derrick Belan, who last month resigned as the head of the National Union of Workers NSW branch, to stay in the executive suite of the Canberra Hyatt earlier this year, the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption heard

Asked why the company subsidised Mr Belan’s costs, Mr Shrimpton said: “It was in the company’s interests that we were to meet the people that Derrick had contacts with.”

Mr Shrimpton said he arranged for the $17,000 fee for a private investigator to be paid through the company as a personal loan to Mr Belan.

In a sworn statement, Mr Shrimpton said he had a discussion with his colleague Paul Rixon who told him that Mr Belan was “having a hard time” and his separation from his partner “was not going well”.

He was involved in family law proceedings and wanted surveillance footage showing his partner was leaving his child unattended without adequate supervision.

Mr Shrimpton said he agreed to help Mr Belan, who he had known “as an acquaintance” since 1999, after he was approached by Mr Rixon.

Derrick Belan, a former NSW secretary of the National Union of Workers image

Mr Shrimpton said the account of Action Workforce, a subsidiary of Ashley Services, was used to make the payment, but the surveillance cost was at his own expense.

“I never intended that the company would bear any of these costs, however the company facilitated the payment process,” he said.

Action Workforce had employed Mr Belan’s niece, Emma Belan, at its Parramatta and then Penrith office.

“There was no conversation between myself and Mr Belan about employing his niece,” Mr Shrimpton said.

The company, whose clients negotiated enterprise agreements with the NUW, also hired another of Mr Belan’s nieces, Shana, and three other people with the Belan surname.

Mr Rixon, the group general manager for Action Workforce, told the royal commission that Mr Belan had been concerned about the safety of his youngest daughter, who he believed “was being left in attendance with other younger children whilst his ex-partner was going out of an evening and coming home very late”.

Mr Rixon said Mr Shrimpton had decided to pay for the surveillance “given Derrick’s circumstances at the time” and “Derrick could pay him back at a later date”.

When counsel assisting the royal commission Sarah McNaughton, SC, asked Mr Rixon to explain why Mr Belan was booked into the Hyatt Hotel diplomatic suite he said it was close to Canberra and had a meeting room.

Asked if this was the only reason, Mr Rixon said: “Oh look, I suppose there was a little bit of me showing off a bit.”

Mr Rixon denied he was trying to “curry favour” with Mr Belan or his union.

“No, no. Mr Belan was using his personal contacts to assist me,” Mr Rixon said.

Wayne Meaney, who replaced Mr Belan as NUW secretary last month, told the royal commission that $25,304 was withdrawn from a union slush fund known as the Derrick Belan Team campaign fund.

“I recall asking Derrick, ‘Is the money still in the safe?’, and he said, no, he had taken it into his safe at home,” Mr Meaney said.

“He guaranteed me it was in a secure spot in the safe at home and any time I wanted to view the money I could, but I never needed to go and view it.”

Mr Belan will face the royal commission on Tuesday to answer questions about tens of thousands of dollars of purchases made with his credit card, including dating services, Tiffany & Co jewellery and a tattoo


Henry Sapiecha

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