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Premier Gladys Berejiklian defends meeting with convicted publicans

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Premier Gladys Berejiklian is under pressure to explain why she agreed to meet two publicans with criminal records including for arson and attempted insurance fraud and illegally owning poker machines late last year.

The Premier met in late October to “discuss gaming issues” with three publicans in the Riverina and Wagga Wagga Liberal MP, Daryl Maguire, diaries disclosed by her department last week show.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has defended the meeting.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has defended the meeting.  Photo: AAP

"They explained to me the hardship their families had faced in relation to changes in law. I didn't know those indviduals but I listened to their concerns."

Scutti, the former owner of the Carrathool Family Hotel, was convicted in 2013 of burning down his pub three years earlier.

He was not jailed despite police saying a custodial sentence was warranted because of the disregard he showed for public safety. The Wagga Local Court magistrate, taking into account Scutti's lack of criminal history and discovery that his wife had a terminal illness, served him with a suspended jail sentence.

Shadow Attorney-General Paul Lynch questioned whether the Premier or the parliamentary secretary had acted with appropriate care in agreeing to the meetings.

“What we are still in the dark about is whether the Premier knew the backgrounds of the individuals with whom she was meeting," he said.

“It is concerning that the Premier doesn’t do her homework and due diligence and that she is quite happy to meet people without proper checks."

Scutti's lawyer told a local court that the fire, and the subsequent submission of a false report to insurer QBE, were part of a "hare-brained scheme". He was handed a suspended two-year sentence and a good behaviour bond for the charges of damaging a property by fire and publishing false information.

Scutti had earlier complained that his retirement security had been placed in jeopardy after the pub, which he had bought via lease, had its poker machines sold by its ultimate owner after changes to state law in 2002.

Tinning, who was also present at the meeting, pleaded guilty last April to illegally possessing five poker machines and parts following an investigation by Liquor and Gaming NSW. He was fined $7500 in the same court.

Tinning is a Wagga-based hotel broker.

Former Labor Opposition Leader John Robertson was forced to resign following an internal coup over revelations he had signed a reference for Man Monis, the man who later perpetrated the Lindt Cafe siege but who had at that time been found guilty of sending offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

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