Private process servers made a 1,900-kilometre trek across New South Wales to find three Liberal party members – including Dominic Perrottet’s younger brother – in a fruitless attempt to force them to front an inquiry looking into an alleged branch stacking plot aimed at unseating federal Coalition MP Alex Hawke.
New documents published on Wednesday by an upper house inquiry looking into allegations of “impropriety” made against a suburban Sydney council and property developers detail the extraordinary lengths taken by a private company tasked with finding Liberal party powerbroker Christian Ellis, his mother, Virginia Ellis, and Jean-Claude Perrottet.
The documents reveal how the process servers – hired after parliamentary staff were unable to find the trio and another of Perrottet’s brothers – made the trip from Sydney to Deniliquin, near the Victorian border, and visited other locations in their attempt to find the trio.
They state that after finding Christian Ellis’s wife on a property outside Deniliquin, she appeared “nervous and evasive” as she denied knowing where her husband was.
“I don’t know his movements. I do not know where he is. I am sorry but I cannot help you,” Ellis’s wife said, according to the document published by the inquiry.
The contractor described visiting a home linked to Ellis at night, seeing lights on and hearing voices, only for the voices to “cease”.
“Despite door-knocking for a number of minutes, no person would answer the door,” the document stated.
One contractor wrote that businesses in an unidentified township had been visited as part of the search for the two Ellis family members.
“The agent … attended at a number of local hotels and [the] local RSL club where discreet enquiries were conducted,” the document states, adding there was no sign of either of them visiting the venues “in some time”.
The search for Ellis – a former member of the Liberal party state executive – and his mother, a current councillor on the Hills shire in Sydney’s north-west, as well as Jean-Claude Perrottet, are part of an attempt to issue them with summonses to appear at the ongoing inquiry into the council.
The inquiry was sparked by explosive allegations aired by the Liberal MP Ray Williams in parliament last year in which he claimed senior members of the party had been “paid significant funds” to install new councillors in order to support development applications by a company called Toplace, owned by Sydney developer Jean Nassif.
Nassif has denied the allegations.
The inquiry previously heard allegations from party member and businessman Frits Maré that Jean-Claude Perrottet and Christian Ellis had approached him to ask for a $50,000 contribution from him in 2019 to “get rid of Alex Hawke, stack his seat”.
The investigation – which has been dismissed by the premier as a “mud-slinging exercise” by Labor in the lead-up to the state election – has been trying to force them to give evidence but must issue them with summons before 3 March, when the parliament is officially dissolved for the beginning of the caretaker period.
Another of the premier’s brothers, Charles Perrottet, was also called to give evidence but cannot be forced to attend because he lives in Victoria.
In a letter reported by the Daily Telegraph this week, he told the committee he would “not be participating in your Labor-Greens circus” and criticised “ill-informed” and “defamatory comments”.
“I do not waive any rights of procedural fairness,” he reportedly wrote.
The documents published by the committee on Wednesday reveal the private servers had also attended the home and business of Jean-Claude Perrottet, with colleagues in the building saying he had not been seen for some time.
In one of the letters, an agent stated they had made six unsuccessful attempts in recent days to find the trio.