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Sacked NSW Labor minister Tim Crakanthorp asked the premier to allow him to continue lobbying for a multibillion-dollar redevelopment in Newcastle at the same time as he withheld the true extent of his family’s property empire.
Extensive searches by this masthead show Crakanthorp’s extended family have amassed a staggering property empire including at least 50 properties collectively worth more than $67 million, a portfolio that could have benefitted from the then-minister for the Hunter’s influence.
Crakanthorp was axed in early August and referred to the corruption watchdog after Premier Chris Minns revealed he failed to appropriately disclose his family’s “substantial” holding despite being intimately involved in meetings about a $3.7 billion Broadmeadow redevelopment called Hunter Park.
The Herald has confirmed an email on June 30 from Crakanthorp’s ministerial office to the premier sought an exemption enabling the Newcastle MP to continue promoting the redevelopment.
After three separate disclosures to the Cabinet Office, the Newcastle MP had divulged only the property owned by his wife, Laura, not the family’s 45 other properties across Newcastle.
Through a lawyer, Crakanthorp declined to comment, citing the privileged nature of the document in question and the continuing investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The ministerial staff of sacked minister Tim Crakanthorp (right) raised the alarm about his boss’s family’s property holdings with the office of Premier Chris Minns (left).Credit: Kate Geraghty
The properties are all owned either directly or by entities belonging to Crakanthorp’s wife, her parents Joseph and Santina Manitta, and three other family members: Frank, Daniella and Michael Manitta.
Daniella and Michael Manitta were contacted for comment, with the former declining the request.
Laura Crakanthorp and the Manitta family have not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The email is included in a tranche of documents provided to parliament but classified as privileged due to the preliminary investigation by ICAC into the matter.
After his June 30 email, Crakanthorp was gazetted to be on formal leave in Italy from July 12 to 22, during which the minister’s staff became aware of the full extent of his family’s property interests.
Crakanthorp’s chief of staff, Elliot Stein, alerted the premier’s office after repeatedly warning his boss he needed to disclose the full extent of his family’s holdings. In August, Crakanthorp said he had asked his in-laws to assemble a full list of their properties and provided it to the premier’s office.
In a statement released after his sacking, Crakanthorp claimed he had self-reported the omissions – a claim Minns disputed.
“I also took steps to subsequently notify the premier that I had now become aware that properties owned within Broadmeadow by my in-laws also now represented a conflict of interest,” Crakanthorp said on August 3.
Extensive searches reveal Crakanthorp’s extended family have amassed a property empire including at least 50 properties collectively worth more than $67 million.
This masthead used recent sales to estimate the value of four of the properties, while the value of the remaining 46 were calculated using land values published annually by the NSW valuer-general.
It means $67.2 million is likely a vast underestimation of the extent of the family’s assets, as it does not account for the value of most of the buildings on the sites, which would collectively be worth millions.
The Herald had previously revealed Crakanthorp held numerous meetings as a minister over plans for the Broadmeadow redevelopment, despite his wife and father-in-law owning a substantial property portfolio in the suburb.
Including plans for a new entertainment centre and about 2700 new homes, the redevelopment is worth about $3.7 billion, according to the City of Newcastle council.
Property records show that Joseph Manitta, Laura Crakanthorp, and other members of their extended family own at least seven parcels of land on Broadmeadow Road.
The broadened title search shows another Islington property, owned by Joseph Manitta, just outside the Hunters Park redevelopment’s investigation area, as well as two Georgetown properties owned by Michael and Daniella.
The sheer size and scale of the property holdings dwarfs previous estimates and will present a challenge to ICAC investigators probing whether Crakanthorp breached the ministerial code of conduct by failing to declare the extended family’s interests.
A spokesman for Minns said: “The premier has indicated that a section 11 referral to ICAC on these matters has been made.
“The Independent Commission Against Corruption has also indicated it’s undertaking a preliminary investigation into whether Mr Crakanthorp has substantially breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct.”
NSW Premier Chris Minns announces Tim Crakanthorp had been sacked over his failure to disclose his extended family’s significant property holdings.Credit: Dion Georgopoulos
After initially warning Crakanthorp would be expelled from the Labor party room if ICAC instigated an investigation, last week Minns said he would follow through with the threat if the probe was formalised.
Of the Manittas’ empire, 45 properties are in the greater Newcastle region and three are at Anna Bay, near Port Stephens. The family also owns 8.5 hectares of land in Queensland’s Daintree region, north of Cairns, and the Central Arcade shopping mall at Finley, a small town near the NSW-Victorian border.
One of the most valuable sites is at Wickham, in Newcastle’s inner city, where Joseph Manitta owns a warehouse with a land value alone of $4.9 million.
Spread across Newcastle, his in-laws’ extensive portfolio demonstrates the difficulty Crakanthorp would have faced being minister for the Hunter given the number of potential conflicts.
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