‘I wouldn’t have survived’: Cleared ex-mayor breaks silence
Acquitted Ipswich mayor Andrew Antoniolli has broken a two-year silence to reveal how he "lost everything" and was pushed to the brink of death during a fight to clear his name of fraud.
Mr Antoniolli was exonerated in a District Court appeal on Friday, 31 months after he was first charged by the Crime and Corruption Commission in Ipswich.
The former mayor, speaking exclusively to The Courier-Mail, has revealed how the fall from grace almost killed him.
"It wouldn't be too big of a claim to say I only survived through my faith," he said.
"I had my family, but if I didn't have my faith - and using that time to concentrate on it - I wouldn't have survived.
"Everything I lost - the home - everything.
"It was a devastating time."
Mr Antoniolli was elected Ipswich mayor in 2017 following the shock resignation and subsequent criminal charges against city kingpin Paul Pisasale.
However within months of being found guilty by Magistrate Anthony Gett in May 2019, Mr Antoniolli, briefly considered a beacon of hope for the embattled council, found himself living alone and desperate for work.
He is now employed as a farmhand near Ipswich, helping to clean chook sheds and tend to maintenance.
"You do what you've got to do," he said.
Mr Antoniolli always maintained his innocence after being charged and, despite the lengthy legal battle and final acquittal, remains circumspect.
"It takes all my willpower and character not to be bitter," he said.
"Clearly the (District Court) judge's comments put paid to anybody's suggestion that I acted dishonestly.
"The problem with mud is when people start throwing it, it sticks."
Mr Antoniolli was charged with fraudulently using over $10,000 of Ipswich City Council's community donation funds to buy charity items at auction.
He admitted buying the items while he was a councillor and mayor, but pleaded not guilty on the grounds it was accepted practice within the council to use the fund to buy items at auctions.
Mr Antoniolli, a Queensland police officer before being elected to Ipswich City Council in 2000, won't be drawn on his next career move.
"The first thing for me is family - Christmas is a great time for reflection," he said.
A spokesman for the Crime and Corruption Commission said it was also considering its next move.
"The CCC is currently reviewing the decision relating to Mr Antoniolli to determine whether a request is made to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider appealing the decision," he said.
It comes as CCC boss Alan MacSporran revealed the watchdog would put state lobbyists in its sights amid growing fears about the integrity of the political system.
But Acting Premier Steven Miles yesterday said he thought there were enough safeguards around how lobbyists do their dealings in Queensland, as the state's corruption watchdog put them in their sights.
"Queensland led the country in introducing regulation of lobbyists," Mr Miles said.
"I understand the Integrity Commissioner has indicated she intends to have a look at whether there is any need for modernisation.
"The laws themselves I think are about 10 years old.
"It's not unusual to look at these kinds of regulations to see how industry has changed, technology has changed over that period of time."
He said the influence of lobbyists was not something that came up as he was door knocking during the recent election campaign.
"It's not something that people stop me in the shopping centres to talk to me about," he said.
Originally published as 'I wouldn't have survived': Cleared ex-mayor breaks silence