An Australian union boss faced questioning in court this week, but it was the person to whom he pointed the finger that was perhaps the most shocking answer he gave.
Last year, when Belan held the position of the National Union of Workers New South Wales secretary, he reportedly took a photograph of his parents to an Emu Plains tattoo parlour to have drawn up to be tattooed onto his calf.
The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption – which is currently investigating alleged corrup union activity in Australia – heard evidence that the $432 expense was put on Belan’s NUW-issued credit card.
According to Fairfax Media, the tattooist (William Buenen) submitted a written statement to the commission, which revealed that Belan had returned the following day to praise his work.
“My mother cried when I showed her my tattoo,” Belan had allegedly told Buenen.
“She said to tell you 'thank you for making me look so young and beautiful’.”
Belan’s tattoo, paid for on his union credit card. Photo: AAP
On Tuesday, Belan reportedly told the commission that he had had to put the cost on his union card because the ATM next to the parlour was out of cash and his personal credit card had been left in the office.
He also claimed that he had asked his niece, office accounts manager Danielle O’Brien, to take the money back.
“I never stole from the union,” he asserted.
Belan was also questioned over a number of other expenses on his union credit card, which included a cruise, rent for his residential property, and fees for an online dating service.
He claimed that the $1,840 Pacific Jewell cruise never came to his attention because O’Brien never put it before him.
When questioned over charges including payments for a holiday park where took an annual trip, Belan said he believed he would have asked his niece to deduct personal expenses from his salary.
According to Fairfax, Belan said that other charges would have been put on the union card – including “taking time out of my holiday” to have dinner with union delegates in the area.
He also told the commission that he was unaware of having subscribed to dating website match.com.
Other charges the commission questioned Belan over included a number of online purchases such as Tiffany jewellery and Disney merchandise.
Belan ultimately blamed his niece and colleague for having to resign from his 14-year role, claiming she had put him in an unsustainable position.
“It's all Danielle's fault, is it?” counsel assisting the commission Sarah McNaughton asked.
Fairfax reported that to this, Belan replied: “Yes, I believe so.”
O’Brien admitted to the commission that both she and her uncle had used their union credit cards to make personal purchases.
When Belan resigned from the union last month, the NUW authorised a $327,000 termination pay out for him as well as a deed of release which protected him from any legal liabilities.
However, the union’s national office asked the new NUW secretary to put these authorisations on hold, the commission was told.