A Brisbane court this week heard how former Richmond MP and ABC Learning Centres director Larry Anthony quietly received hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from a contractor to the childcare group.
The fees, according to the Courier Mail, were allegedly not declared at the time to ABC Learning’s chairwoman, former Brisbane mayor Sallyanne Atkinson.
The claims were made in the Brisbane District Court trial of Martin Kemp, a former executive director and head of the company’s Australia and New Zealand childcare operations.
The Courier Mail’s Liam Walsh reported that Kemp has pleaded not guilty to two Corporations Act charges related to the company’s purchase of three of his privately-held childcare centres in January 2008.
The court had previously heard Kemp had failed to declare to the board his interest in the three centres.
But his lawyer, Neil Clelland SC, on Tuesday questioned Mrs Atkinson about related party transactions involving other directors of the company whose childcare centres spanned four countries before its collapse in November 2008.
One of those transactions, according to Mr Clelland, was of Mr Anthony receiving consultancy fees from ABC Acquisitions, a business separate from the-listed ABC Learning. ABC Acquisitions helped buy centres for ABC Learning.
Mr Clelland told the court the fees were in the ‘hundreds of thousands’ dollars.
Mrs Atkinson said she was unaware of the fees and that Mr Anthony had not volunteered that information when asked about conflict of interest at the outset of board meetings after joining the company in 2005.
Mr Anthony, a minister for children’s affairs between 2001 and 2004, had also received fees as a consultant from ABC Learning, which Mrs Atkinson said she did know about.
Mrs Atkinson told the court that ABC Learning’s chief executive and founder, Eddy Groves, had sometimes approved expenditure that was not put to the board including ‘millions of dollars’ for purchases or leases of aircraft.
She also said she didn’t believe Mr Groves had authority to approve a $3 million deposit to be paid on three centres linked to another director.
The trial continues.