Pisasale secretly pleads guilty to corruption, sex assault

 

Disgraced former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale has pleaded guilty to corruption and dozens of other criminal charges ranging from sexual assault to seeking secret commissions for a dishonest land deal.

Once one of the most popular political figures in the country who repeatedly secured 85 per cent of the vote as the affable "Mr Ipswich", Pisasale today remains behind bars awaiting sentencing after pleading to dozens of charges levelled during a wide-ranging Crime and Corruption Commission probe.

The 69-year-old's guilty plea comes more than three years after he spectacularly quit office in his hospital gown and socks, citing health issues, during a bizarre press conference.

Paul Pisasale has secretly pleaded guilty to a swag of offences.
Paul Pisasale has secretly pleaded guilty to a swag of offences.

It would later emerge that corruption officials had swooped on the mayor a day earlier, searching his house and office and later levelling criminal charges that the former politician had initially vowed to battle in court.

 

 

Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale announces his resignation at St Andrews Hospital in Ipswich amid a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation in 2017. Pic Peter Wallis
Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale announces his resignation at St Andrews Hospital in Ipswich amid a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation in 2017. Pic Peter Wallis

The Courier-Mail can now reveal that the once indefatigable mayor instead quietly pleaded guilty to a long list of dishonesty offences in the Brisbane District Court on August 11.

His guilty pleas could not be reported until now after a court-ordered suppression order was today lifted following Pisasale's further confession to the separate sexual assault charges.

Pisasale's guilty plea to the two counts of sexual assault in the Ipswich District Court came after he struck a deal with prosecutors just days ahead of his trial, which had been listed to begin on September 21 in his hometown.

New details of the charges can now be revealed, including that The Courier-Mail understands the sexual assault allegations relate to an incident at the Ipswich Council building while the then-mayor was showing a woman, who was not a council employee, around the council chambers during a meet and greet in December 2016.

Police have alleged Pisasale indecently assaulted the woman after putting his mayoral robes on her.

He has also pleaded guilty to 27 counts of fraud last month, one count of receiving a secret commission, one count of official corruption and fraud of property subject to a direction.

The official corruption charge centres on police allegations surrounding a development the then-mayor corruptly agreed to champion a project in the Ipswich suburb of Yamanto.

Police allege Pisasale had received meals and had prostitutes arranged for him in connection with the development.

The secret commissions charge involved police allegations about an Ipswich land deal.

His fraud charges involved police accusations he had dishonestly used council funds to pay for interstate travel.

Police had zeroed in on trips including to Melbourne, where Pisasale had allegedly asked a developer to fabricate a meeting so he could attend a Bruce Springsteen concert.

He had also discussed arranging a threesome with a developer on the night, according to police.

On another trip, Pisasale had planned to travel to Melbourne on council business to meet with Jamie Oliver, but instead had a prostitute arranged by a developer for him, according to police.

Police claim it was on this trip Pisasale was handed a bag containing $50,000 in cash.

He was never charged over the cash, which his barrister friend Sam Di Carlo says was being carried back to Queensland by Pisasale as a favour for an unrelated client's settlement.

Sources close to Pisasale say the once popular mayor has lost any of the former pizzazz he was known for and was now a "broken man," worn down by prison life and years of legal action.

The father-of-three - who spent 13 years in the top job up until mid-2017 - descended from influential mayor to prisoner last year when he was convicted in July in the Brisbane District Court of two counts of extortion. He was sentenced to a year's prison.

 

Disgraced Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale was found guilty of extortion in mid-217. He was sentenced to two years’ prison, suspended after 12 months. Artwork: Richard Gosling
Disgraced Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale was found guilty of extortion in mid-217. He was sentenced to two years’ prison, suspended after 12 months. Artwork: Richard Gosling

Neither his wife Janet nor his adult children attended court during the trial or sentencing.

Pisasale, his lawyer Cameron James McKenzie and Chinese escort Yutian Li were each found guilty in 2019 of an extortion plot against Li's former boyfriend.

The extortion plot was uncovered by CCC detectives who had bugged Pisasale's phone as part of its wide-ranging Operation Windage investigation into Ipswich council corruption.

The court heard during the trial Pisasale had posed as a private investigator to demand money from the ex-boyfriend of Li.

Li was at the time a Chinese escort Pisasale had met that same month when a massage was arranged for him, which included sexual services.

She told Pisasale she had been dumped by her ex-boyfriend after he had promised to marry her.

They plotted to "punish" the man, leading to Pisasale calling him up as a private investigator demanding up to $10,000 for Li.

He told the man that Li had incurred expenses to "find out the truth" about him, after it was discovered the man was already married.

Pisasale sensationally took the stand in his own defence at the trial, with his lawyer telling the jurors that ultimately convicted him that he was a "sucker for a damsel in distress".

The decision to testify came as a shock to many, who believed Pisasale would not come across as genuine on the stand.

The move came after Pisasale made an eleventh hour decision to fire his legal team days before the trial, later engaging Brisbane solicitor Andrew Anderson.

Anderson was once one of Queensland's youngest crown prosecutors, being appointed at age 22.

He has acted in a number of high-profile matters including acting for Steven Fennell, who last year had his murder conviction over the death of Macleay Island woman Liselotte Watson overturned.

In sentencing Pisasale for extortion, Judge Brad Farr took into account his record of community service and poor health, mainly his battle with multiple sclerosis, in sparing him any more time bars.

The father of three was sent to high-security Wolston Correction Centre - home to the likes of wife murderer Gerard Baden-Clay and child killer Brett Peter Cowan.

Ironically, Cowan's case would later be used to argue for a non-publication of his charges in an effort to allow Pisasale the greatest chance at a fair trial on his sexual assault charges, despite the case being heard in the city that knew and loved him so well.

His time on the inside has been uneventful, besides breaking his collarbone days into his prison sentence while attempting a chin-up on the exercise equipment, those who know him say.

Pisasale's suspended sentence had been served by last July, but he has remained in prison.

The fact Pisasale was not released on parole two months ago sparked whispers from interested Brisbane lawyers, who told The Courier-Mail at the time they believed Pisasale was planning to enter pleas to the charges that brought him down three years ago.

It is believed he has now been moved to the residential section of Wolston - a cushy section of the jail described as more like a holiday home than a prison cell.

It features tennis courts, gymnasiums, kitchen facilities and outdoor areas in contrast to the caged exercise yard confines found in the secure wing of the prison.

But it is a stark contrast to his heady lifestyle in the lead up to being charged - one filled with expensive lunches, travel, nice hotels and encounters with prostitutes.

It was a lifestyle that ultimately formed part of the police case against him, with allegations the then-mayor was compromised by inducements such as free meals, offers of pay-offs and hook-ups with prostitutes.

 

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, pictured in 2008. Picture: Russell Shakespeare
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, pictured in 2008. Picture: Russell Shakespeare

Some friends though have stood by him since he was hit with criminal charges.

That includes multimillionaire Lev Mizikovsky, who founded home builder Tamawood, owns land in Ipswich and has long associated with the former mayor.

Mr Mizikovsky has told the newspaper he did what he could to help Pisasale, which included funding some of his legal bills to fight the extortion charges last year.

He declined to discuss the cost of the legal support, but said it "wasn't a particularly substantial amount for me anyway. I have been quite fortunate with my business."

"He is a friend and I feel deeply touched by what's happened to him," he said.

"That did not change my view of him as someone who did his best for many years and broke down at some point."

"I really feel for him. He had been an excellent mayor, he did do a lot for Ipswich and unfortunately, at some point, as I say he worked hard, maybe spent too much time entertaining people, and combined with his multiple sclerosis it obviously caused some issues. It is disappointing."

Pisasale was charged alongside 16 others after the corruption watchdog finished its fast moving investigation into the council.

High profile casualties included corrupt former Ipswich chief executive officer Carl Wulff and his wife Sharon Oxenbridge. Wulff was sentenced to five years prison, suspended after 20 months, for pocketing bribes.

Also jailed for corruption was well-connected businessman Wayne Myers.

 

Originally published as EXPOSED: Pisasale secretly pleads guilty to corruption, sex assault


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