A short limousine ride from the famous Monte Carlo casino, the Les Caravelles building enjoys a dress circle position overlooking Port Hercules – a popular place for the world's mega rich to park their superyachts when visiting the Cote D'Azur.
According to documents filed with the Australian Electoral Commission, it is also the mailing address for Akira Investments Ltd, a generous donor to the Free Enterprise Foundation (FEF), a mysterious entity closely linked to the Liberal and National parties.
Given the foundation has no phone number and no website, just how a company domiciled in Monaco came to donate $200,000 last financial year – an extraordinarily large donation by Australian standards – is intriguing enough. But just who is behind Akira Investments is also shrouded in mystery.
Regulatory authorities in Monaco say there is no record of its existence. "The company Akira Investments is unknown to our various registers," a government spokeswoman told Fairfax Media.
Nor does it appear in Australian company records.
According to the Australian Electoral Commission, Akira Investments has failed to lodge a political donation disclosure form, as required by law.
But an AEC spokesman said the commission is powerless to chase the company as the act governing its operations does not have "international jurisdiction".
Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane did not respond to a request to discuss the donation to the FEF, which is classified as an "associated entity" of the Liberal and National parties for election funding purposes.
The foundation’s long-serving trustee, Canberra accountant Tony Bandle, did not return Fairfax Media’s call or an email.
Mr Bandle was recently grilled at the Independent Commission Against Corruption about whether the Free Enterprise Foundation was used to channel funds from banned donors back to the NSW Liberals.
"Well, what I want to know is – I’ll put it to you directly, this is just a way of funding the Liberal Party, isn’t it?" asked counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson, SC.
"No, I don’t believe so," Mr Bandle said.
The corruption inquiry produced a letter from the NSW Liberal Party’s then chief fund-raiser Paul Nicolaou to Mr Bandle at the foundation. It was dated December 16, 2010, only months before the NSW state election.
Mr Nicolaou attached a $53,000 cheque from banned donor Nathan Tinkler’s Boardwalk Resources. "They would like the trustees to consider donating their contributions to the Liberal Party of Australia NSW Division," Mr Nicolaou wrote.
This practice was repeated on numerous occasions but Mr Bandle insisted that the foundation had the discretion not to follow such instructions. However, he could not name a single instance when he had not done as he was told.
Another witness, Ray Carter, an electorate officer for former NSW energy minister Chris Hartcher, told the inquiry: "I was told from the beginning, the best way to raise money [was] through the Free Enterprise Foundation."
Mr Carter said he knew the money was from banned donors and had discussed the "legality" with Mr Nicolaou. "He said, more or less, 'That’s what the Free Enterprise Foundation was for.'"
As a result of allegations raised at ICAC, Mr Nicolaou recently stepped down as executive director of the Millennium Forum, the Liberals’ chief fund-raising body. Globally renowned Australian fashion designer Akira Isogawa says the investments company has nothing to do with him.
"I don’t have any organisation established in Monaco," he said. "I’m not interested in donating money [to politicians]. I’d like to donate money ... to charity."
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The story Revealed: Monte Carlo address of donor linked to Liberal Party fund first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.