On 22 January 2014, Simon Brandis, the son of federal attorney general George Brandis, was given notice to appear in court, accused of wilful damage to property. He was facing a punishment of up to five years in jail.
According to a spokesperson for the Queensland attorney general’s department, John Gardiner, a single court document remains on file relating to Simon Brandis’s case, which shows that the prosecutor dropped the charge against the young man on the morning of the appearance.
Brisbane Magistrates Court would not release the document to BuzzFeed News, but Gardiner described it over the phone, including the scribbled signature of Simon Brandis’s criminal defence lawyer: Theo Tavoularis.
“If the court’s made a decision not to release the document, that’s the court’s decision,” Gardiner said.
It remains unclear why George Brandis’s son was arrested, or even when he was charged with allegedly damaging property. Simon Brandis would not return repeated requests for comment.
A “right to information” request for the police file remains pending, but Queensland Police media told BuzzFeed News details of the arrest would not be made public without the consent of Simon Brandis.
Five months before Simon Brandis appeared in court, Theo Tavoularis’s Brisbane-based law firm made a donation to the Liberal National Party.
The return, lodged with the electoral commission in Queensland, shows that “Tavoularis & Co Lawyers” made the donation of $1,200 in August 2013.
It was one month before Tony Abbott’s federal election win and the elevation of George Brandis to the top legal position in the country.
Fast-forward three years, and on Friday 6 May 2016, two days before prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called an historic double dissolution election, attorney general George Brandis sprang into action.
It was in the final hours before “caretaker mode” began that Brandis raised eyebrows in the legal community by announcing 76 appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
The AAT is the legal body that independently reviews the decisions of ministers, departments, and federal agencies relating to federal laws.
One of the names of the dozens of people appointed to the top legal body was Theo Tavoularis.
The Brisbane criminal lawyer who had donated to the Liberal National Party and helped Simon Brandis escape jail was given a five-year full-time appointment by the attorney general.
A secretary for Tavoularis said the lawyer was aware of BuzzFeed News’ inquiries, but declined to comment.
The office of attorney general George Brandis was repeatedly asked for comment and refused to answer questions relating to the appointment.
With the appointment comes a lucrative pay cheque. Simon Brandis’s criminal defence lawyer, who donated money to the Liberal National Party a month before George Brandis became attorney general, is now in line to receive an annual salary of $370,000 a year for the next five years.
Mark Di Stefano is a political editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at email@example.com.
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