A Barilaro Affair: how the Barilaros ended up with the Clubhouse when the Club went under

by | Nov 24, 2020 | Business

Marco Polo Social Club in Queanbeyan was sold to a company run by the family of NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro. Callum Foote investigates the intriguing circumstances of a deal which saw John and his father Domenico, who were club directors, end with the clubhouse.

It had been the heart of the Italian community since 1975. Marches started and finished there. Political meetings, community gatherings, sporting contests and local fairs were held at Queanbeyan’s Marco Polo Social Club. So there was heartbreak all around in the Italian community when the club closed in the early 2000s, reportedly due to “an unforgiving fiscal market“.

But what led to the club’s downfall appeared to be some financial skulduggery by Nationals MP John Barilaro and his father Domenico, which appeared to net their company $700,000.

The club had hit a difficult financial period, but by 1990 it was back on track thanks to club members banding together to raise roughly $80,000.

Dom and John Barilaro joined the club in the early 1990s. The intrigue behind the club’s closure can be dated back to March 1994 when, with Domenico as a director, the Marco Polo Club took out a $621,000 mortgage with NAB as records from the NSW Land Registry Office show. The mortgage documents don’t show a reason for the borrowing.

Within two years, half of this loan had been repaid. The club was again thriving, especially thanks to the roughly $700,000 worth of pokie machines the club owned, which provided a significant income stream.

However, around the same time, documents show that in January 1996, the remainder of the mortgage with NAB (some $300,000) was discharged. Documents obtained by Michael West Media show that just before the mortgage was repaid in full, the Marco Polo club was transferred to a newly created company called Monaro Properties Pty Ltd. One of its founding directors was Domenico Barilaro; John Barilaro was its secretary at one stage; and as of 7 December 1995, the Barilaro family held shares in Monaro Properties.

It appears that Domenico Barilaro, the director of both Marco Polo Social Club and Monaro Properties (along with other club directors), had sold the Marco Polo clubhouse to his company for $300,000.

None of the club members contacted by Michael West Media knew anything about the NAB mortgage or the transfer of ownership of the clubhouse. It is also unclear what the directors of the Marco Polo Club knew. Suffice to say that as of 2001, six of the Marco Polo club’s nine directors were also involved with Monaro Properties.

Rent started being charged

Once Monaro Properties owned the clubhouse, it started charging the membership rent. It is unknown what the rent initially was when Monaro Properties took over the club in 1996, but in a three-year period between 2000-2003, the rent increased 60%; from $45,000 pa to $72,000 pa.

The club started experiencing financial difficulties soon after Monaro Properties took ownership. This was despite the club having an operating revenue of about $300,000 in 2000 and operating revenue of $376,529 in 2001.

By 2003, the club’s debt had ballooned to $370,000. The directors of the Marco Polo Social Club cited this debt as one of the reasons for the need to wind up the club.

In May 2003, John Barilaro signed an affidavit in the ACT Supreme Court stating that the club was “not in a position to continue to meet its ongoing financial commitments” and resigned his directorship. He cited the club’s financial difficulties were due to “low membership numbers, low number of poker machines, difficulties in relation to the catering contract, and low patronage”.

Dom Barilaro had been a director of Marco Polo Social club and club president until the club was forced into liquidation in 2003 by Dom’s associated company Monaro Properties. John, meanwhile, was also a director of Marco Polo Social Club at various times between 1999 and 2003.

Members owed money

Frank Pangollo, one of the first directors of the club and former mayor of Queanbeyan, told Michael West Media that a significant portion of the debt amassed by the club was in fact money that the members had banded together to pay back in 1990. Once 13 years of interest was added, this debt was calculated at $159,000 in 2003.

Mr Pangollo said the members were willing to forgo this money. But club directors refused the offer. Five days after John signed the affidavit in May 2003, lawyers representing Monaro Properties sent the Social Club a letter demanding $9,000 in unpaid rent. If it wasn’t paid, the letter said, company representatives would “enter the premises and take possession of all goods owned by the Marco Polo Club [and] lock the Club out”.

Even though their offer of forgoing their debt had been rejected, club members were still trying to buy back the club house. They settled on a sum of $760,000 with Monaro Properties and put down a $76,000 deposit.

However, at the last minute Monaro Properties appear to have reneged on the deal by upping the price by more than $100,000 to $860,000, a price which the club members could not afford.

The following year, in 2004, Monaro Properties sold the now vacant clubhouse and land to a company called Greyhaze Ptd Limited for $1.025 million. Greyhaze is owned by Bruno Rosin and his family. Rosin was a founding member of Monaro Properties and acted on the company’s behalf when evicting the Marco Polo Club membership in 2003.

Three years later, in 2007, Greyhaze sold the property for $3.4 million after redeveloping the site into commercial buildings.

Where did the pokie machines go?

Questions remain.

Where did the $700,000 worth of poker machines go when the Barilaros’ company took possession of the Marco Polo club house? No record is made of them by administrators, liquidators or in the club’s records.

We don’t know if John Barilaro made a financial gain from the Clubhouse transactions. He declined to respond to questions. We don’t know if he or interests associated with him held units in the Monaro Properties Unit Trust. He no longer held shares in Monaro properties after the mid-1990s.

We know that in 1996, Monaro Properties took out another mortgage on the property, which was signed for by the Trust.

In 2016, a $425,000 grant was awarded by the NSW government in order to rebuild the Marco Polo Club led again by Domenico Barilaro. This was an initiative of the NSW Stronger Communities Fund which was, at that time, run by John Barilaro. The Deputy Premier has a track record of awarding grants which disproportionately benefit his own electorate.

​This was a joint investigation with FriendlyJordies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Callum Foote

Callum Foote

Callum Foote is our Revolving Doors editor exposing the links between the highest level of business and government. These links provide well-resourced private interests with significant influence over Australia's policymaking process. Callum has studied the impact of corporate influence over policy decisions and the impact this has for popular interests. He believes that the more awareness this phenomenon receives the more accountable our representatives will be.

52 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jesus

  2. Avatar

    Porky Barrelaro exposed once again..

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      Worth a read on the Tripodi matter -https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0004865818782573

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      And the whole scenario reminds me so much of what happened to the old APIA footy club in Leichhardt – crims get on the board, do a classic 3-card trick re mortgages and refinancing, then takeover with some audacious mismanagement, and whole everyone’s trying to work out what happened, crim colleagues enter stage left with bag of cents in the dollar, do a big wind-up and waltz away with the assets.

  3. Avatar

    Self interest rules.

  4. Avatar

    If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. This is corruption at it’s finest, You have to give them credit for the manner in which they stole from the community. I doubt that many people would be so brazen in their activities as to actually leave a paper trail and still think they got away with it.

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      The Club probably thinks he saved them by organising the grant of the $400k of public money.

  5. Avatar

    Congrats Callum this is a brilliant investigation which should see the end of Mr Barilaro from NSW politics.The video treatment of this material by FriendlyJordies is also top shelf.

  6. Avatar

    WOW CALLUM!!!! GREAT WORK!!

  7. Avatar

    Callum, I read your piece thinking this all sounds far too familiar. In the 1990s I looked at the demise of Kingston Women’s Bowling club in the ACT and the subsequent sale of its facilities and the Crown leasehold land which was granted to the club for free as a not-for-profit organisation. A search of the land titles showed the transfer of the lease from the club to an Ian Meldrum in the morning for an amount (from memory around $500,000), and another transfer a couple of hours later for $2.5million (or thereabouts). A nice capital gain realised in a few hours. While I could see who the ‘directors’ of the club were I could not find a connection with Meldrum, nor could I track where the millions went. The crown lease and club were then redeveloped into medium density housing. In my view this sort of small ‘c’ corruption (ie. not plain vanilla bribery Crimes Act corruption) is endemic, particularly among politicians. Good luck hunting down more. I hope you realise you won’t get any interest from regulatory authorities…for me, only the ATO was interested in the documentation regarding possible undeclared capital gains.

    • Avatar

      Ian Meldum as in Ian “Molly” Meldrum?

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        I don’t know. For all I know it could have been a fictitious name..it’s just what was on the Torrens land title at the registry.

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        There was an Ian Meldrum in the hospitality business in the Kingston/Manuka area in the 80/90’s as I recall. I think he was involved with the Boot and Flogger and possibly other businesses. As I recall he lived in the Forrest area.

  8. Avatar

    So, it seems that apart from shady dealings regarding Koalas and other property developers, it appears that the Barilaro family are still being ‘rewarded’ more than handsomely. So how is that going to do down with the local constituency, now that this has become common knowledge?

    Short changed his own community for ‘personal’ benefit, then decided to buy his way into Politics. Sounds more like ‘The Roman Republic’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_the_Roman_Republic

    Ah well, I guess you could say that we have had progress of a kind.

  9. Avatar

    Is it possible for the club members to sue him over this?

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      Sue him? Where’s the Mafia! Dont tell me all those Italians who had their club stolen dont know anyone who can ‘fix’ the situation. Disgraceful behaviour to do to your own community.

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        Those are citizens. Barilario is the Mafia boss.

  10. Avatar

    This remains the reason independent journalism is vital… scrutiny of the corrupt will not take place without it…

  11. Avatar

    Gobsmacking. Speechless. Good work Callum and MichaelWestBiz. Hunting out corruption every day.

  12. Avatar

    Interesting strange you can and will only deal with one side but what about Victoria and its Labor party . What about Dan’s contributions t0 over 800 deaths in terms of similar history ie from the time he was Minister of Health and what he refused to do on the basis of expert advice .

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      what’s your comments got to do with the topic? By the way the major source of deaths was in aged care which is Scomo’s responsibility!

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        I do not think it was SCOMO if it was there would have many more deaths in Australia not just in one State .

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        The outbreak was in Victoria John so that’s where the deaths were. Responsibility for that needs to be accepted and the mistakes corrected by the Victorian State Government. However aged care is a Commonwealth, not State, responsibility and the Commonwealth did not have then, and appears not to have now, any proper plan or arrangements to protect the elderly people in its care.

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        you miss the point . DD did not manage it well . He or his agents did the spreading

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        I agree, the Vic Government messed up. As I said, they need to fix their mistakes. As a Western Australian, people I care about could face the same issues if the WA Government messed up because no proper planning has been done in aged accommodation which are as dangerous as cruise ships but not as comfortable. There’s still nothing to support aged accommodation carers so they don’t need outside gigs, there’s no effective attempt to ensure such basic essentials as protective gear, proper training, adequate staffing with on duty Registered Nurses, nutritious and palatable food etc.

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        The story is about the Marco Polo Club.

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        You mean like the deaths in NSW age cared… yeh that happened… maybe do more research.

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        I know 16 in NSW a bigger state doers not really compare to Victoria’s 800 principally spread by DD’s plans
        I know NSW obviously better than you do.

    • Avatar

      F*** off flynne – what a stupid comment. If you can’t say anything relevant dont say anything at all!!!!

      • Avatar

        Pity you can only do abuse but remember JB did bring in a carbon tax . i think the first in Australia . It is a very muddled world we live in

      • Avatar

        So why bring up what Dan Andrews has done when #SUPERBARILAROBRUZ is in question here…..

      • Avatar

        At least he is reading independent media which is more than we can say for the majority……assuming he did actually read the article……..be nice. Perhaps a lack of relevance is best ignored.

    • Avatar

      Typical diversion tactic. Your comment comes off like a 4 year old “but mum Dan did bad too” . The Murdoch press constantly deals with the “side” you are referring to while constantly ignoring the other side. Congrats to all involved for going where the mainstream media refuses to go. Stand by for the smear campaign

  13. Avatar

    Legally there has to be fraudulent activity here, surely this has to be taken further.

  14. Avatar

    Surely by now he must resign. Him and Bin Chicken can’t stay

    • Avatar

      Haha bin chicken. Love it.

  15. Avatar

    Sad

  16. Avatar

    Great job by the Michael West & Friendly Jordies teams getting this out there.

  17. Avatar

    And this is how you take down Uncle Rupert’s propaganda by going after his friends, flood the media biosphere with investigative exposure of the arrogance of these parasites. They have no where to hide when all Murdoch has is smear campaign rebuttals and threats of defamation suits.

  18. Avatar

    Must say how shocked I am to hear this news about noble john and his saintly father. I will equally shocked if anyone in NSW Parliament shows the slightest inclination to investigate further. It’s no accident that the LNP is riddled with these dropkick grifters. They know where the bodies are buried.

  19. Avatar

    Awesome work bud! You should sling this great work across also to FriendlyJordies to be repurposed into a comical but hard hitting Youtube video. I’m sure Jordy would savour the opportunity. We need more journos like you my friend… you do your state and country a great service. John Barilaro and politicians of is ilk need to be locked up in jail and the key thrown away.

  20. Avatar

    How come the NSW funded a club with a grant of $400k when the club only a few years ago was insolvent and wound-up?

  21. Avatar

    This is what happens when people are disengaged and apathetic about politics; sociopaths take over the system and exploit it for personal gain. Australian voters put people like this in power all the time. If people watch the stenographers in the MSM who suck up people like this you can understand why. Thank god for independent journos. I hope Callum refers this to the AFP.

  22. Avatar

    That… Answers so many questions. But from a different point of view. I worked in doing electronic security and I was called in to do some work that I felt was strange. It felt like a security decommission when I was being told by my site contact that they were refurbishing for a brand new look. You tend to not remove security if you’re doing that.
    But I was just a young apprentice at the time, so what did I know. I can’t give dates or years. I can only say I worked in Electronic security from late 90s to mid-late 2000s. Right in the timeframe of this happening.

  23. Avatar

    Why is it i can only read the comments in a “Super Mario Bros” voice in my head.

    BTW nice job exposing these assholes, keep it up. As corrupt as the NSW govt is I see nothing will get done about this.

  24. Avatar

    This is what happens when people are disengaged and apathetic about politics; sociopaths take over the system and exploit it for personal gain. Australian voters put people like this in power all the time. If people watch the stenographers in the MSM who suck up people like this you can understand why. Thank god for independent journos. I hope Callum refers this to the AFP.

  25. Avatar

    excellent article – keep up the good work please !

  26. Avatar

    Well this is misleading…

    • Avatar

      Is it? Pray tell, how exactly?

  27. Avatar

    What does NSW Gaming and Racing know about this Club’s affairs.

  28. Avatar

    If the mainstream media did it’s job the Barilaro mafia would be toast.

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