A former construction union organiser has been arrested a short while after he admitted to a royal commission he took $60,000 from a formwork company owner – but only because they were friends.
The trade unions royal commission was also played a secret recording on from April this year in which Halafihi “Fihi” Kivalu demanded Elias Taleb pay him another $50,000.
But the former organiser, who left the CFMEU last November, said the payments in instalments – which he later gambled away on the pokies – were made without the union’s knowledge.
“Mr Taleb voluntarily gave me money hoping that I would use my contacts to help him in the industry,” he said.
He added that the handovers were always above board and never happened when he was wearing a CFMEU uniform.
The pair were friends, often sharing a beer, and their children played together.
However, another call played to the hearing – between Mr Kivalu and his wife – indicated he knew what he was doing was wrong.
“What else do I do, because I organised a crime and it comes back to bite us up in the arse … if I’m behind bars because I’ve organised people,” he told his wife during the conversation.
Mr Taleb, the owner of Class 1 Form, told a hearing on Monday he paid Mr Kivalu a total of $135,000 to secure jobs in the capital.
“Mr Taleb is full of s***,” the former organiser told the commission on Thursday, before being asked to calm down by commissioner Dyson Heydon.
When pressed on the call where he demanded more money, Mr Kivalu said he was trying to give Mr Taleb a piece of his own medicine after he “blackmailed” him to the union’s ACT branch secretary, Dean Hall.
Mr Kivalu also admitted to accepting $40,000 from tiler Medwhat Elesawiy, but said it was also voluntarily offered in the hope that he would help with work in Canberra.
Later, after his evidence and a meeting with his lawyers at a Canberra office building, police officers arrested Mr Kivalu.
He was led outside without handcuffs and put into the back of a police van.
The former organiser had earlier also admitted to not knowing how he came to pocket more than $32,000 in redundancy pay.
Mr Kivalu told the hearing he resigned from his position for personal reasons on November 10, 2014.
But when asked why he received a redundancy payment of $32,267 a day later, Mr Kivalu told the commissioner: “I don’t know.”
The CFMEU’s legal team turned up denying it boycotted the first three days of the ACT hearings.
The union’s national secretary, Dave Noonan, had distanced himself from Mr Kivalu, saying on Monday allegations against the former organiser should be investigated by the police and courts.
ACT Policing said in a statement that officers had arrested a 39-year-old Queanbeyan man following the hearings.
“Inquiries are continuing, and it would not be appropriate to make any further comment at this point,” a spokeswoman said.
By Jennifer Rajca