Former Vic councillor denies rigging ballot papers
A former Melbourne councillor accused of voter fraud allegedly instructed a man to steal postal votes from residents' mailboxes so they could be filled out in his favour.
Milad El-Halabi was elected to the northwest ward of the Moreland City Council - now Merri-bek City Council - in October 2020.
But police allege El-Halabi, his wife Dianna, 52, and daughter Tania, 26, stole and interfered with postal ballots in the lead up to the election.
The trio on Monday appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court for a committal hearing, where Magistrate Stephen Ballek will determine whether the case should go to trial.
They all deny the charges.
Merri-bek chief executive Cathy Henderson told the court the Victorian Electoral Commission first contacted her about the alleged election fraud on November 3, 2020.
Later that day, she received a call from one of the councillors, Oscar Yildiz.
He told Ms Henderson a resident in the city's northwest ward saw a "male person" in a skirt door-knocking properties and checking mailboxes for voting packs, the chief executive told the court.
When the resident confronted the man, he allegedly told her Milad had sent him.
Mr Yildiz also told Ms Henderson that Milad El-Halabi had offered residents $500 for their ballot papers.
Ms Henderson could not recall when Mr Yildiz said the incidents took place, although he had made a complaint to the commission.
"My immediate concern was for him to provide the relevant information to the Victorian Electoral Commission and police," she told the court on Monday.
"It's not my role to investigate allegations of fraud."
In his own evidence, Mr Yildiz denied saying Milad El-Halabi offered $500 payments in return for votes.
But he maintained a resident called him on October 9, claiming she saw the man door-knocking in the Glenroy area.
Mr Yildiz, who is a current member of the Merri-bek council, could not recall the woman's name or any of her details.
He said he might have emailed the electoral commission about the allegations but he only reported the incident to police on November 3.
"At the time, I wasn't aware of my need to report it to police," Mr Yildiz said.
The councillor also denied he made the allegations against Milad El-Halabi because he was upset he wasn't voted in as mayor.
He also rejected the claim he threatened El-Halabi after he lost the vote.
The electoral commission's electoral integrity and regulation director Keegan Bartlett also gave evidence on Monday, telling the court there was an abnormal number of duplicate ballots in the 2020 election.
Mr Bartlett said he first heard of a complaint a few days after the election, when a manager raised concerns a woman tried to obtain a new ballot paper when records showed she had already voted.
The matter was escalated through to the Local Government Inspectorate, which then referred the case to Victoria Police.
The hearing will continue on Tuesday.