Williamson could face seven years' jail over 20 charges

Seeking evidence ... police leave Mr Williamson's Maroubra home.
Seeking evidence ... police leave Mr Williamson's Maroubra home.

The arrest of Michael Williamson yesterday marks a spectacular fall from grace for the former head of the powerful Health Services Union and the one time national president of the ALP.

The 59-year-old was arrested by appointment at his local police station in Maroubra just before 8am yesterday.

He was later charged with 20 ''very serious'' offences which attract a maximum penalty of seven years' jail. Mr Williamson spent several hours at Maroubra police station before being released on bail.

His bail conditions include not approaching people he is alleged to have recruited to hinder the police investigation.

Bail was set at $50,000 and Mr Williamson was required to hand in his passport.

The commander of the Fraud and Cyber Crime Squad and head of Strike Force Carnarvon, Detective Superintendent Colin Dyson, said most of the charges related to alleged attempts by Mr Williamson to thwart the police investigation into allegations of corruption within the union.

Five charges concerned Mr Williamson's alleged recruitment of five former and current HSU officials to commit a criminal offence, namely hindering a police investigation.

One of those charges concerns his son Chris's attempt to remove a bag of documents from the union's Pitt Street headquarters while police were executing a search warrant upstairs.

In May police allegedly intercepted father and son as they were attempting to load a large black bag into the boot of a car in a nearby underground car park.

Superintendent Dyson said Mr Williamson had allegedly instructed other union employees to delete computer files and destroy documents.

Although they were not mentioned by name, it is understood another charge relates to instructions Mr Williamson allegedly gave to Carron and John Gilleland to destroy documents relating to American Express card statements. Police raided the Gillelands' Palm Beach home earlier this year.

In September last year an investigation by the Herald reported allegations that the Labor MP Craig Thomson, the union's former national secretary, and Mr Williamson received secret commissions in the form of American Express cards from the Gillelands who printed the union's newsletter.

It was later reported that Mr Williamson had a second American Express card - a black Centurion card - which was a secondary card attached to that of his close friend Cheryl McMillan, the HSU's purchasing officer.

For several years Mr Williamson had allegedly been spending up to $30,000 a month - largely on dining and other lifestyle expenses - on the card, which is made of titanium.

The 15 other offences Mr Williamson was charged with yesterday included making false statements to intentionally mislead the HSU's members as well as fabricating documents intended to deceive an internal union investigation conducted by the barrister Ian Temby, QC, and the accountant Dennis Robertson.

It is understood those charges relate to Canme, the private company of Mr Williamson's wife Julie, which charged the union almost $400,000 for ''archiving services''.

The Temby report raised doubts as to whether this work was ever done.

During the morning, police escorted Mr Williamson back to his Maroubra home where they executed a search warrant. The items named in the warrant included laptops, computers and computer storage devices. The police were also seeking any material relating to Canme, United Edge and American Express cards attached to the accounts of the Gillelands and Cheryl McMillan.

Mr Williamson's IT company United Edge received almost $5 million from the union in a four-year period.

Superintendent Dyson said that investigations into the broader corruption allegations within the union would continue and that he expected further charges to be laid against Mr Williamson and others. When asked about Mr Thomson, Superintendent Dyson would only say that police ''have not eliminated any person of interest''.

This story Williamson could face seven years' jail over 20 charges first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.