The boss of Victoria's regional train network has been accused of using a secret burner phone and having part of his Melbourne home paid off by a cleaning contractor.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission on Monday opened public hearings into allegations senior public officials improperly influenced the awarding of major contracts with V/Line and Metro Trains.
Counsel assisting Paul Lawrie said investigators had uncovered new and serious alleged conflicts of interest and public contract impropriety.
In his opening address, Mr Lawrie said several "suspect" bank account transactions were detected in late 2019 between V/Line boss James Pinder and Transclean.
The cleaning company was hired by V/Line in May 2018 on an initial three-year, $17.2 million contract that had scope to be extended by four years for an extra cost of about $23 million.
Transclean was also awarded contracts with Metro Trains and Melbourne's tram operator, KDR.
Mr Lawrie told the commission that Pinder, Metro Trains' head of fleet operational support Peter Bollas and Transclean managing director George Haritos had past ties.
"These three men appear to have formed a close group in the course of their professional lives, which began in a common association with Metro Trains some eight years ago," he said.
All three will be called to give evidence during the Operation Esperance public hearings, with Mr Pinder facing questioning on Monday.
"For a period of nearly four years, James Pinder and George Haritos have used a pair of burner mobile phones, subscribed in the name of Transclean associates to communicate secretly with each other and with Peter Bollas," Mr Lawrie said.
"These secret phones came into use soon after James Pinder's appointment as the chief executive officer of V/Line in late 2016."
Burner phones are cheap pre-paid mobile phones that can be disposed of easily.
A $100,000 deposit on Mr Pinder's current residence at Williamstown, in Melbourne's southwest, was also made by a Transclean associate, the commission was told.
"This was the first of several structured payments between late 2018 and early 2019 totalling at least $320,000," Mr Lawrie said.
"These payments to James Pinder were in addition to suspected regular cash payments to both him and to Peter Bollas to advance Transclean's interests in the public transport sector."
Mr Pinder stood down as V/Line chief executive in August when it emerged he was under investigation by the corruption watchdog.
Australian Associated Press