Hotel security firm ‘misled’
Unified Security, one of the largest private contractors to the Sydney and Melbourne hotel quarantine schemes, allegedly engaged in “purposefully misleading and deceptive” conduct by using a complex structure to hide its true owner.
The company did not tell NSW Police it was controlled by David Millward for more than a year after advising authorities he had been removed as a shareholder at their request, new documents show.
Unified Security, one of the largest private contractors to the Sydney and Melbourne hotel quarantine schemes, allegedly engaged in “purposefully misleading and deceptive” conduct by using a complex structure to hide its owner.
The company — one of four that was given access to the lucrative but bungled Victorian government scheme before quarantine breaches forced it to end — did not tell NSW Police it was controlled by David Millward for more than a year after advising authorities that he had been removed as a shareholder at their request, new documents show.
Unified is still being used in the NSW hotel quarantine scheme.
One briefing for NSW Police Minister David Elliott, dated November 6 and marked “sensitive”, suggests the structure was put in place so Unified was eligible, as an Indigenous-owned business, to participate in the Victorian quarantine scheme.
“It appears UNIFIED has deliberately failed to disclose … ownership and close association with the company to (the NSW Police Security Licensing and Enforcement Directorate) using USG and various share transactions to disguise … beneficial ownership of 5 per cent of UNIFIED’s shares,” the briefing reads.
“It is like that … needed to prove ownership of UNIFIED to ensure the business would be eligible, as an Indigenous-owned business, for participation in the Victorian hotel quarantine program via the Victorian government’s social inclusion procurement policy.”
An investigation by The Australian in November revealed Unified had been awarded large contracts by the NSW government despite being linked to a string of bankrupt ventures that owed taxpayers millions of dollars.
Two men behind the business — Mr Millward and Luigi Trunzo — have been linked to at least 41 different corporate entities including one previously known as Unified which collapsed into insolvency in 2016 owing state tax authorities $4.5m.
The same investigation also found the quarantine scheme was beset with thousands of incidents, with 169 security guards sacked and at least four overseas arrivals absconding from quarantine.
A number of security guards contracted the coronavirus while working at a hotel, including one in August who was at the Harbour Marriott and who later travelled across Sydney.
Documents now obtained by The Australian show SLED notified Unified that it did not consider Mr Millward to be a suitable close associate in September 2019.
The following month, Unified informed SLED that he had been removed as a shareholder of the corporation.
In late March 2020, as the hotel quarantine programs were being established, a company called USG Holdings Pty Ltd — owned by Millward Investments Pty Ltd and Trunzo Investments Pty Ltd — acquired all the shares of Unified without notifying the directorate, the documents claim.
Days earlier, the national cabinet had announced quarantine requirements for returned travellers, and documents since tendered at the Victorian inquiry into its hotel quarantine arrangements show Unified was invited to supply guards despite not being on a panel of preferred suppliers.
SLED wrote to Unified after The Australian provided evidence of the chain of ownership, asking for an explanation.
It has since moved to cancel Unified’s master security licence, a decision which the company is challenging in the Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
In a separate letter to Unified in February, SLED said it had found Mr Millward “continues to be a close associate of USG since July 2019 in that he has had a financial interest, relevant position and a relevant power”.
Notably, the letter said, he provided evidence to the Victorian Hotel Quarantine Inquiry on behalf of Unified, which includes details of his position and power within the company.
A Unified spokesman said the company had “always worked hard to meet our compliance obligations and at no stage have we knowingly provided inaccurate information to SLED, adding: “We categorically reject the suggestion that a false declaration has been made.”
The spokesman said claims that the company structure had been changed to gain contracts reserved for Indigenous-owned businesses, were “ludicrous and further demonstrate that The Australian is intent on doing everything it can to tear down a good Australian business that works hard to compete with the Chinese and Indian-owned multinational security companies”.