ICAC inspector to investigate after witness takes life
THE corruption watchdog inspector is conducting an audit into how the ICAC takes care of witnesses following the death of a man who took his own life days before he was due to give evidence.
Dr Leo Liao, who worked for property development firm Wu International, committed suicide in June last year on the weekend before he was due to undergo a compulsory examination concerning a NSW Labor donations scandal.
Inspector of the ICAC Bruce McClintock SC this morning told a parliamentary inquiry into the operation of the Commission: "Deaths like that are far too high a price to pay".
Mr McClintock said he had started making "preliminary inquiries" into the issue and would report back in 2020.
"People can overreact when they find out their evidence is being sought and some people can overreact and feel they themselves are the subject of blame which is not necessarily the case," he said.
"I want to inform myself as to whether there are things that can be done to improve the way they approach that."
It comes after the Victorian Inspectorate launched an investigation into a series of complaints at the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and its treatment of witnesses.
The report, handed down last year, revealed a policewoman summoned to give evidence had attempted suicide twice at its headquarters - once in the toilets and later in the waiting room.
Mr McClintock said he'd received the report from the Victorian inspector and thought it was "very much worth looking at".
He said he was also "deeply" affected by the death of a councillor who committed suicide after he was called to give evidence at an ICAC inquiry into Randwick City Council in 1995.
"I had the genuinely unenviable task of having to listen to a 40-minute recorded suicide note," said Mr McClintock, who was counsel assisting the inquiry at the time.
"The death was wholly unnecessary - he was not a person of interest."
Mr McClintock said he may need external advice to assist with the audit, noting lawyers "may not be the best people to consider the answers to some of these questions".
The ICAC is investigating whether NSW Labor officials schemed to circumvent political donation laws by covering up an illegal $100,000 donation to the party made in 2015 using a dozen "straw or pretend" donors.
Dr Liao, suspected of having links to the scheme, left a suicide note to his wife and daughter telling them why he had decided to take his life.
"I have decided to leave this world, which is also my last hardest attempt, to prevent you and our daughter from becoming family members of a criminal, this is because I am still innocent at the time I wrote this letter," he wrote.