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Ex-union head pleads not guilty to fraud

AAP logoAAP 18/11/2016 Andi Yu

Former NSW union official Derrick Belan has pleaded not guilty to misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in branch funds.

The 45-year-old was arrested with his niece Danielle O'Brien in Sydney's west on Thursday and the two were charged with fraudulently obtaining more than $870,000 from the NSW branch of the National Union of Workers (NUW).

The arrests were made by state and federal officers from the Trade Union Joint Police Taskforce established in January in response to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

The pair allegedly misused union credit cards and made fraudulent electronic transfers and withdrawals from union accounts.

It's also alleged they processed false invoices via a third party contractor who supplied services to the union.

Belan's lawyer entered pleas of not guilty for 24 fraud-related offences and two of participating in a criminal group on his client's behalf at the Penrith Local Court on Friday.

Belan appeared via video link from nearby Amber Laurel Correctional Centre. He looked tired and unkempt.

He was granted bail on the condition he does not contact any witnesses involved in the continuing police investigation of the NUW.

Police prosecutor Andrew Whitton told the court Belan had systematically defrauded the union between 2010 and 2015.

"The accused held a position of trust in that union," he said.

"He was the one who was able to call the shots.

"The union is supposed to look after its workers."

Mr Whitton opposed Belan's release from jail, citing concerns he could tamper with evidence and contact witnesses.

"This accused has the potential and capacity to approach people in a prejudicial way," he said.

Defence lawyer Arjun Chhabra said Mr Whitton's arguments were "misconceived".

Magistrate Stephen Corry imposed conditions on Belan's bail that he not leave the country, only leave his home in the company of his mother and that he not go near or contact Danielle O'Brien.

If found guilty, a jail sentence is "almost inevitable" given the extent of the fraud, Mr Corry said.

Belan's partner, mother and brother attended court on Friday but chose not to answer questions from reporters.

Belan's next court appearance is scheduled for January 20.

O'Brien will face court at a later date.

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