Diamonds, hairdressing: Sharobeem was 'plundering' resources for her own benefit

Eman Sharobeem, centre, arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Tuesday.
Eman Sharobeem, centre, arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Tuesday.

A diamond engagement ring and motorbike expenses for her son, visits to the hairdresser every 10 days, a fridge for home and even her dental work, Eman Sharobeem's snowballing expense claims from the taxpayer have led to the acting ICAC commissioner to suggest she was "plundering" resources for herself and her family.

And Ms Sharobeem, the former boss of two not-for-profit publicly funded community groups, has lashed out from the witness box, claiming she was underpaid, overworked and not given the prestige of other chief executives.

In evidence before the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Ms Sharobeem was told by acting commissioner Reginald Blanch, QC, that it was being suggested to her she was being accused of stealing.

"That word is like a knife in my heart," Ms Sharobeem, a former Australian of the Year awards finalist, responded.

It was being suggested she was "plundering resources of the [organisations] for yourself and your family", he said.

Are you a dishonest person, acting commissioner Blanch asked? "Not for $1000 ... would I jeopardise my reputation. Not for all the money in the world."

He said handwritten notes by Ms Sharobeem on receipts that categorised how expenses should be repaid were "going to be suggested that it's the clearest evidence of your guilt".

Ms Sharobeem was giving evidence for a sixth day into allegations she fraudulently misappropriated more than $600,000 of money from the Immigrant Women's Health Services and the Non-English Speaking Housing organisation.

She was shown receipts from a jeweller and became angry when counsel assisting, Ramesh Rajalingam, asked if she claimed as expenses $1700 towards the $10,000 diamond engagement ring her son Richard had bought.

"Please don't damage my children," she said. "Enough! He's very proud of paying for that. I offered to help him with my own money and he refused."

Ms Sharobeem claims she never submitted expenses for reimbursement but that bookkeepers had made errors paying back personal expenses and that she had been framed by staff.

Acting commissioner Blanch asked how someone earning $80,000 a year could not notice thousands of dollars of reimbursements flowing into her account.

"If you are a billionaire you might not notice how much a Mercedes costs but, for someone on $80,000, these are very significant amounts of money," he said.

Receipts were shown for reimbursements for $2000 for a fountain from a Bonnyrigg garden centre, $1800 for dental work, $1000 for motorbike expenses and four pages of services at a hairdresser for $7500 that counsel assisting said worked out at a visit every 10 days over three years.

"The migrant women's service doesn't have fountains," Ms Sharobeem said.

In earlier evidence, Ms Sharobeem was accused of fabricating a receipt for office chairs and a desk that was actually for a VIP pass during a personal holiday on the Gold Coast at taxpayers' expense.

She became angry and tearful when confronted with two versions of the same receipt addressed to her.

One showed Ms Sharobeem had spent $489 for a Classic Holiday Club VIP membership. It included the ABN and PO box number of the company and detailed the expenses of the membership.

The other receipt was titled Office Furniture and Equipment and detailed expenses for the same amount for "chairs and desk, including shipping". The receipt contained the same company ABN and PO box number.

"This document is foreign to me," Ms Sharobeem said. "I can't recall purchasing office furniture from Queensland."

Mr Rajalingam accused Ms Sharobeem of deleting information from the Classic Holiday Club receipt and replacing it with false information.

"You want me to admit to something I didn't do," Ms Sharobeem said tearfully. "This is too much to see. This is getting another new level of shocks."

Acting commissioner Blanch asked: "Can you see this document has been fabricated ?" Ms Sharobeem: "Yes, I see that."

Acting commissioner Blanch: Counsel is suggesting to you that you fabricated it. "Of course not," she replied.

In an exchange with Mr Rajalingam, Ms Sharobeem was asked if the Classic Holiday Club membership was ever used by an IWHS client? "Not to my recollection."

If it was bought for the IWHS, why wasn't it used for the IWHS? "I was the only full-time worker doing everything."

Why didn't you extend it to clients? "It has a lot to do with the size of things required of me as a human being. I was underpaid, and overworked, I was overstretched. I was doing volunteer work. I don't want you to think I did this deliberately."

You used it because you were overworked? "I'm a client, too."

No you're not, you're the CEO, replied Mr Rajalingam.

"I might have the title of CEO but I don't have the benefit." She said she was given the title as a "prestige".

"I was never treated as one. I wasn't paid as CEO."


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