Sharobeem arrives at ICAC in Sydney0:29
Australian of the Year state finalist Eman Sharobeem arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Sydney on Wednesday. Sharobeem is accused of rorting more than half a million dollars while in charge of two publicly funded health services.
AS A high profile voice for women’s rights and victims of forced marriage, former charity boss Eman Sharobeem was always a picture of composure.
The perfectly presented activist and one time Australian of the Year finalist was a voice of reason on sensitive and complex issues, and a respected, measured representative of Sydney’s migrant community.
Ms Sharobeem concluded her time on the stand before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) with a sensational outburst defending her legacy of helping women and girls.
In a dramatic outburst, she claimed she had been bullied, harassed and terrorised throughout the months-long inquiry.
“You can try and tarnish my reputation ... You can try to bully me, harass me, terrorise me, but you cannot take away the fact I only raised two sons and worked for migrant women and saved many people,” she told the commission, appearing to hold back tears.
The ICAC is investigating corruption allegations levelled against Ms Sharobeem who is accused of misappropriating more than $680,000.
During her time as CEO of the Immigrant Women’s Health Service (IWHS) and linked organisation, the Non-English Speaking Women’s Housing Scheme (NESH), Ms Sharobeem is accused of claiming personal expenses and being reimbursed by the organisations for more than $20,000 in diamond jewellery and $3000 to pay for her youngest son’s liposuction surgery among other expenses. She is also accused of using the companies’ accounts to pay for about $34,000 in traffic infringements and renovations for her home, and of paying her two sons thousands from both the companies for nothing, while also gifting them a car and motorcycle paid for by the companies.
Ms Sharobeem has been questioned over the accusations throughout the inquiry that commenced in April, but wrapping up her evidence today she made clear she wanted her achievements to be noted as well.
While being questioned by counsel assisting the commission Ramesh Rajalingam over why her organisation paid for a series of personall bills between 2014 and 2015, Ms Sharobeem became defensive.
“I sacrificed a lot of my years to save women and girls,” she said. “Do not come now, sir, and try to take that away from me. You have no right, you have no right.”
The Egyptian-born advocate denied she had tried to raise her public profile while she headed the two organisations, but insisted she had been encouraged to do magazine, radio and television interviews.
“I did not want to raise my own profile. I was pushed to come out and talk about my childhood and what happened to me as a victim of forced marriage, as a victim of female genital mutilation,” she said.
“I do not regret that and many lives were saved. You cannot take that away from me.”
Throughout the trial, it has emerged that Ms Sharobeem’s claims that she was forced into marriage as a child were proven untrue. She admitted that rather than being married at 14 or 15 as she suggested in interviews and media appearances, she was married in 1984 when she would have been about 21.
Ms Sharobeem has previously spoken out against female genital mutilation and said she had helped women who had been mutilated. But other than today’s outburst has not publicly claimed to have been a victim herself.
Evidence given to the inquiry has also revealed Ms Sharobeem, who would go by Dr Sharobeem, used the title without qualification and had purported to be a psychologist. She accepted referrals from a priest, general practitioner, and from Centrelink, and was “treating” clients whom she would sometimes refer to as “patients”.
Also giving evidence on Thursday, Ms Sharobeem’s husband Haiman Hammo said he “did not ask questions” about her using the title, including in television appearances and in a magazine article.
She said he believed she had gained an honorary doctorate in Egypt about 2005 and told her she “insists on calling herself Dr”.
Mr Hammo said he didn’t believe his wife was a psychologist, but admitted he knew “people were being referred to her and she was counselling them”.
Asked whether he knew Ms Sharobeem purported to be a psychologist in a 2012 appearance on the SBS program Insight, Mr Hammo said he did not know his wife had volunteered the claim but said she frequently failed to correct people.
“Eman, in her answers and fast talk, she has a tendency to agree with whatever other people would say,” he said.
“She would say yes and go on talking. I think that’s a fault of hers ... she sort of agrees with other people’s impressions.
The hearing was told Ms Sharobeem had hired and paid her sons thousands of dollars that they clearly did not remember receiving.
Ms Ghaly denied she “set up” her old boss, and that she was “the brains behind” framing her.
“This is obviously fake,” she said when showed an invoice for an electronic gate at her home that was paid for out of an IWHS account.
“I did now create this fake invoice, I do not create fake invoices, I don’t need to create fake invoices.”
Ms Sharobeem admitted she had made mistakes in paying for some personal expenses with IWHS money. She said she had made mistakes because she was overworked.
“I was so overwhelmed with the amount of work that I had to do and it’s obvious to the commission the amount of work I had to do,” she said.
“I know this was bad management, I know it was left only for me, but I was the only full-time staff of this agency serving Australia-wide.”
Acting Commissioner Reginald Blanch QC today adjourned the inquiry and asked that submissions be made by the counsel assisting and Ms Sharobeem’s lawyers by October.
A report on the inquiry will be handed down by the ICAC and is expected to take a number of months.