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Cairns Aquarium referred to CCC over allegations it misused coronavirus grant

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The Aquarium’s CEO said he was “absolutely furious” after receiving a letter yesterday stating a $3.5 million government support grant would be revoked.

The Cairns Aquarium has been referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission by the Queensland Government over allegations it misused coronavirus support funding.

The Aquarium's CEO said he was "absolutely furious and disgusted" after receiving a letter yesterday stating a $3.5 million government support grant it had received would be revoked.

"The government has alleged accusations that are completely false," Cairns Aquarium CEO Daniel Leipnik said.

"We've referred those over to our legal team."

The North Queensland business is accused of using the money to make payments to related entities, a political party, and to purchase a new vehicle.

But Mr Leipnik denied the claims and said the purchases were made with their own operating costs.

"The Cairns Aquarium has been generating revenues since we opened on June 27th," he said.

"We have used some of those revenues from our own trading to purchase a few items that the state government has taken issue with."

Electoral Commission of Queensland donation disclosures show the aquarium made a $10,000 contribution to the Queensland Labor Party on August 8, 2020, after making donations to the LNP QLD Party in previous years.

Mr Leiptik defended making the payments and said that no grant money was used.

"We really believe in our either federal MPs or their candidates," he said.

"Our support for Labor and Liberal is designed to send a message to these parliamentarians that the tourism industry backs them so they can have some confidence to back the tourism industry."

Deputy Premier Steven Miles says the Government has a responsibility to ensure the grants are used appropriately and has confirmed that Queensland Labor has refunded the donation.

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Shadow Minister for Finance Jarrod Bleijie said Labor had "botched" the process of handing out the COVID-19 grants.

"If the taxpayer is funding to keep an operation afloat, a tourism operation afloat, you'd expect that money to be spent where it is meant to go through the grant process," he said.

"The Labor Party doing what they're doing today is really pot calling kettle black - it's their issue, it's their failure.

The aquarium has referred the issue to its lawyers.

Source: 9News

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