Salim Mehajer was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which his lawyer said may explain his “lawlessness”. (AAP: David Moir)
Sydney property developer and former Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer has offered a “heartfelt apology” for committing multiple counts of electoral fraud, saying he acted “for love”.
Mr Mehajer took to the stand in court today ahead of a magistrate handing down his sentence.
In April, he was found guilty of what was described as a joint criminal enterprise with his sister Fatima to rig the local council elections in 2012.
He was convicted of more than 100 charges relating to forging documents or giving false or misleading information to the Australian Electoral Commission.
It relates to submitting online enrolment applications.
The 31-year-old told the court he did not intentionally try to rig the election.
“It wasn’t about attracting votes,” Mr Mehajer said.
“If I got in, it was a bonus.”
Mr Mehajer conceded what he did was wrong.
“Looking at it now, absolutely,” he told the court.
“I am very upset and wish to extend a heartfelt apology.”
Mr Mehajer’s sister, Fatima Mehajer (right), pleaded guilty over her role in the enterprise. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
Bipolar disorder could explain ‘notorious escapades’
Mr Mehajer ran in the 2012 election as part of a group.
“It was a big boys game, not for children and that’s what we were,” he told he court.
He said they were “silly and didn’t belong there”.
Mr Mehajer suggested his actions were done “for love” from his friends and to gain the love of the community.
But then added “there’s some offences I didn’t do”.
It was revealed in court that Mr Mehajer has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is now on medication.
His lawyer, Carolyn Davenport SC, told the court that that could explain, not excuse, his “lawlessness” and “notorious escapades”.
Wedding made family suspect Mehajer had ‘serious issues’
Mr Mehajer said he now had insight into his behaviour.
“I’m my own worst enemy,” Mr Mehajer said.
“Part of my bipolar is to have, have, have.”
Prosecutor Jeremy Rapke asked whether any of the property developer’s family members had raised concerns about his mental health previously.
“The wedding first of all was when they thought ‘OK, you have serious issues’,” Mr Mehajer told the court.
His younger sister, Fatima, is also in court today awaiting her sentence this afternoon.
She pleaded guilty.
Mr Mehajer and Aysha Learmonth’s lavish 2015 wedding caused controversy over the closure of a number of streets around his home.
Mr Mehajer and Ms Learmonth have since separated.