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WA bureaucrat ‘epitome of corruption’

Disgraced West Australian bureaucrat Paul Whyte stole “rapaciously” from the state to fund his lavish lifestyle while posing as the ideal public servant.

The scathing finding is contained in a new report into Whyte’s theft of more than $22 million in taxpayer money, described by WA’s Corruption and Crime Commission as “Australia’s biggest corruption by a public servant”.

Whyte, 58, has pleaded guilty to 564 corruption charges in the WA Supreme Court and will be sentenced on Friday.

In a report tabled in state parliament on Tuesday, the CCC described how the well-educated Whyte had climbed the ranks of WA’s public housing and communities departments.

“In short, Mr Whyte was the ideal public servant. Except it was all a lie,” the watchdog said.

“Mr Whyte was an inveterate gambler who lived well beyond his means. For more than a decade, he rapaciously stole more than $22 million from the state while maintaining a facade of professionalism.

“In fact he was the epitome, not of a successful public servant but of rampant corruption.”

The commission said it had received information in 2018 that indicated “conduct associated with questionable behavioural and lifestyle habits”.

It did not single out Whyte but investigators decided to look into his finances given his seniority and considerable influence.

They found Whyte’s listed address on official documents did not match where he actually lived – a luxury Mosman Park home purchased for more than $3 million.

It was not under mortgage and the funds used to purchase it had not flowed through the bank accounts of Whyte or his partner.

Investigators established Whyte had held stakes in 87 racehorses since 1998, most acquired after he started working for the housing authority in 2009.

It soon became clear Whyte was a prolific gambler. He paid betting agencies more than $813,000 between 2013 and 2019 and recorded net losses of $732,000, the watchdog said.

Between 2012 and 2019, he racked up more than $1 million in household and general spending.

The breakthrough came in 2019 through an analysis of Whyte’s corporate credit cards.

Surveillance teams were deployed and it was established Whyte was personally authorising payment of false invoices, valued at up to $100,000 per month, to shell companies which had bank accounts controlled by Whyte and another person.

Whyte was arrested in November that year and his assets were frozen. The criminal benefit he acquired was assessed and declared to be over $11 million.

His two Mosman Park properties were confiscated along with other real estate, money from his superannuation fund and his racehorse winnings.

The homes were sold for a total of $4.7 million which will be returned to the state minus fees.

“The commission depends on honest public officers reporting suspicious behaviour – which did not happen in this case,” the watchdog concluded.

“Reporting suspected misconduct is never easy, especially when the person under suspicion holds high office and influence.

“It is never easy but it is always right.”

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