Top NSW CFMEU officials charged after allegedly accepting bribes from construction company

The CFMEU’s NSW secretary and his son,the assistant secretary,have been charged for allegedly soliciting a series of $5000 kickbacks from a construction company in return for preferential treatment.

Darren Greenfield,56,and Michael Greenfield,36,were arrested on Friday morning after a long-running investigation by the trade union taskforce involving the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police.

CFMEU official Darren Greenfield leaving Sydney Police Centre.

CFMEU official Darren Greenfield leaving Sydney Police Centre.Rhett Wyman

It will be alleged that the men solicited and accepted payments from the owner of a building company in exchange for preferential treatment from the union and access to building contracts,police said in a statement.

The CFMEU’s national secretary Dave Noonan said the Greenfields both denied the charges,went to the offices of the taskforce voluntarily and would vehemently contest the allegations against them. Mr Noonan said both men had the full support of the union and were entitled to the presumption of innocence.

The Greenfields were targeted in dramatic raids across Sydney in November with 10 search warrants were executed in Bradbury,Caringbah South,Pyrmont,Liverpool,Rhodes,Fairfield East and Surry Hills.

NSW Police organised crime squad commander,Detective Superintendent Rob Critchlow,said the investigation had “uncovered a significant amount of evidence suggesting the two men arrested today benefited from illegal cash payments on more than one occasion in their positions as union officials”.

Michael Greenfield leaving Sydney Police Centre.

Michael Greenfield leaving Sydney Police Centre.Rhett Wyman

AFP Detective Superintendent Craig Bellis said the investigation was focused on alleged criminal conduct in the building industry.

“The construction industry is a key driver of both the state and Australian economies. As a major employer of people in NSW,it should operate free from unlawful influence and corrupt activity,” he said.

“The diligence and thorough nature in which this investigation was conducted demonstrates the gravity of the alleged offending.”

Darren Greenfield was charged with four counts of receiving a corrupting benefit. Michael Greenfield was charged with making a false declaration and two counts of receiving a corrupting benefit.

The maximum penalty for the corruption benefit offences under the Fair Work Act is 10 years’ imprisonment or a $1.11 million fine,or both.

Xian Feng Lin,the owner of the building company,Lin Betty Building Group,was charged in November 2020 with six counts of giving a corrupting benefit and one count of attempting to deal with proceeds of crime worth more than $50,000.

Lin has admitted to bribing CFMEU officials with $5000 kickbacks between 2018 and 2020,the Central Local Court was told in the Greenfield’s hearing on Friday.

He has pleaded guilty to the charges and is scheduled for a sentencing hearing in the Downing Centre District Court on September 24.

The Greenfields were granted bail on Friday afternoon at Central Local Court after the magistrate found that,while there was a risk that the men would interfere with evidence or threaten witnesses,it was not an unacceptable risk.

Federal prosecutor Rebecca Ogden told the court there were serious concerns,based on their associations and conduct detailed in evidence,that the defendants “may seek to threaten,harm,intimidate or coerce witnesses” and interfere with evidence.

The court heard of exchanges,allegedly captured by investigators,in which Darren Greenfield spoke of coercing development company Parkview to favour Lin’s company,telling the builder:“If I say to you,I will talk to Parkview for this one,I will make sure you get the job.”

According to the prosecution evidence,Michael Greenfield promised in another exchange “we will be on that job next week kicking the f--- out of them” for the company’s failure to cooperate.

The magistrate said the evidence indicated there was a “fair amount of pressure put onto persons within the business area that these gentlemen are working in” and the episodes were “unattractive and,taken at their highest,are most serious”.

Under the bail conditions,the men have surrendered their passports,are prevented from using encrypted communications,will be subject to a curfew,must report daily to their local police stations in Campbelltown and Sutherland respectively,and cannot approach international airports or leave NSW.

“If they breach any of these orders,it will just be straight back into custody,” the magistrate warned.

“I have no intention of breaching any of the court orders,” Darren Greenfield told the court.

Prosecutors have recorded phone calls,surveillance material and WeChat messages gathered during the police investigation and the magistrate said there was a strong case against the Greenfields.

The CFMEU is the name that the construction division of the wider Construction,Forestry,Maritime,Mining and Energy Union uses. In all,the larger union represents more than 100,000 members across construction,mining and energy but is intensely divided,with the mining division in the middle of a protracted process to become independent. Nonetheless,it is one of the most powerful unions in the country and has attracted attention from authorities for its sometimes aggressive tactics.

Mr Noonan,the construction division boss,said in a statement on Friday that the police task force that charged the Greenfields was a product of the 2014-15 trade union royal commission.

“On three previous occasions,charges laid against union officials after investigations by this same task force were withdrawn before trial,” Mr Noonan said.

“This ongoing witch hunt for nothing but political gain has resulted in damage to the reputations of innocent people who have been victimised for doing their jobs and has caused their families unwarranted distress.

“We ask the media to bear this in mind when reporting these allegations and to not let this become a case of trial by media but instead allow the legal process to take its course. We will not make any further comments on the matter while it is in front of the courts.”

The Greenfields’ solicitor Paul McGirr confirmed that his clients would be pleading not guilty and said they were pleased to be granted bail.

In 2015,the trade union royal commission recommended that charges be considered against Darren Greenfield for using a telephone to make death threats to his former colleague,Brian Fitzpatrick. No charges were laid.

The commission also heard that Darren Greenfield was regularly visiting the Earlwood home of construction identity George Alex. The commission heard Mr Greenfield collected $2500 that Mr Alex would leave for him in a drawer in the bathroom.

Although the commission recommended the DPP consider criminal charges against the pair,no charges were laid.

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Fergus Hunter is a crime reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald. He previously reported on federal politics,education and communications at Parliament House in Canberra.

Kate McClymont is an investigative journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.

Nick Bonyhady is industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age,based between Sydney and Parliament House in Canberra.

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