Pisasale trial hears CCC interview with Cameron McKenzie

FORMER Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale has today appeared in the witness box to give evidence in his trial for extortion.

Pisasale, 67, is giving evidence about his involvement with Chinese-born woman Yutian Li, who is a co-accused in the extortion case along with Brisbane solicitor Cameron McKenzie.

The former politician's barrister Lincoln Crowley told the court that Pisasale met Yutian Li, who is also known as Angela, then 37, in January 2017 while she was working as a masseuse and escort.

They later had dinner on more than one occasion and Li told him about having been "betrayed" by her taxi-driver ex-boyfriend Xin Li.

Over the course of those meetings she told him more details about Mr Xin Li and talked about the costs she had incurred finding out the truth about his "double life" - with Mr Li already being married, Mr Crowley told the court.

Pisasale told the court Li told him her ex-boyfriend had "lied to her and made promises."

"She said she spent a lot of money finding out the truth in her investigations," he said.

"I had no reason not to believe her.

"I wanted Angela to be able to get on with her life..and I wanted it done legally and professionally, he said of his later intervention."

The prosecution has previously alleged in court there was no private investigator and Pisasale had posed as an investigator in calls to the ex-boyfriend.


EARLIER: An interview by corruption officials with an Ipswich lawyer accused of working with Paul Pisasale to extort a Sydney taxi driver has been played in court in day three of the former mayor's criminal trial.

The former longtime mayor is on trial for making a demand for money from the taxi driver without a reasonable basis, with lawyer Cameron McKenzie also accused over a letter of demand he issued.

A third person, Chinese-born woman Yutian Li, who was 37 at the time, is also a co-accused in the extortion case.

All three have pleaded not guilty to the offence.

Ipswich lawyer Cameron McKenzie at court in Brisbane this week. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP
Ipswich lawyer Cameron McKenzie at court in Brisbane this week. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP

Pisasale is alleged to have demanded money from Li's taxi driving ex-boyfriend in early 2017, posing as a telemarketer named George Robinson and later a private detective in a series of calls.

He accused the man of duping Li by promising to marry and keeping secret that he was already married. Pisasale allegedly demanded he pay Li for private investigator costs to "learn the truth."

A letter demanding Li pay $8400 - mostly to cover the private investigation - was then sent to Li from McKenzie, who later told investigators he was doing it "as a favour" for the mayor.

Yutian Li arrives at court today. Picture: Darren England
Yutian Li arrives at court today. Picture: Darren England

But former CCC Detective Sergeant Adam Jewell told the court today there was no evidence a private investigator was ever hired.

The prosecution alleges it was actually Pisasale "pretending" to be one.

McKenzie was interviewed by Crime and Corruption investigators at his office months after sending the letter of demand.

The court heard the CCC had by then intercepted a series of phone calls by Pisasale under its Operation Windage and were investigating an alleged extortion offence.

In the interview, which formed part of a more than three-hour long search warrant executed on his office, McKenzie is questioned about the difference between the letter of demand and extortion.

"It is a very fine line, you are right," McKenzie then told investigators.

"In the mind of an ordinary person, receiving a letter of demand is a threat.

"That's what letters of demand are. So, scaring him, yes I know he would be scared by receiving this letter. That's what I do as a lawyer. I get paid to be nasty."

McKenzie repeatedly told the CCC during the interview a private investigator was engaged.

But he was then asked to explain a phone call he allegedly had with the then-mayor on January 10, 2017 where Pisasale told him: "I rang up and pretended to be a private investigator."

Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale arrives at the District Court in Brisbane today. Picture: Darren England/AAP
Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale arrives at the District Court in Brisbane today. Picture: Darren England/AAP

McKenzie accepted Pisasale had told him that, but told investigators: "I honestly believed there was an independent investigator."

The court also heard McKenzie told the CCC investigators at the time the mayor had supported his business and of course he is going to have influence over me."

"Well he is the Mayor of Ipswich," he said during the interview, the court heard.

McKenzie was also questioned about Pisasale allegedly telling him about wanting to "scare the shit" out of Li's ex-boyfriend when he refused to react to the letter of demand.

"You know how Paul talks, he is a colourful character. Sicilian. He does want to scare the shit out of this man," McKenzie told the CCC investigators.

"I guess he is trying to say it lightheartedly but is serious at the time. It's difficult to explain. But that's Paul."