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NSW inquiry to probe RSL fraud scandals

It’s the “darkest day in the history of the RSL”.

The NSW RSL will collapse if it fails to co-operate with a powerful new inquiry into alleged embezzlement and fraud within the 100-year-old institution, the state government has warned.

The crisis-plagued  charity will be the subject of a royal commission-like inquiry with “special powers” to subpoena evidence and compel witnesses to give evidence, as part of a wide-ranging probe announced by the government on Monday.

The NSW branch has been plagued by a series of financial scandals and fraud allegations in recent months, with separate inquiries underway by NSW Police and Australia’s charity ‘s watchdog.

NSW Veterans’ Affairs Minister David Elliot described the probe as the “darkest day in the history of the RSL”.

“The fact that I’ve seen the allegations of hundreds of thousands of dollars misappropriated has meant that I’m fed up, and I know that the rank-and-file members are fed up,” he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

The future of the branch will depend on the investigation, he said.

“I’m appealing to all those that have been involved in this matter to be honest, open and forefront.

“The RSL, if this matter isn’t dealt with properly, may find itself a thing of the past.”

The state government in December referred former NSW RSL president Don Rowe to police over claims he used his corporate credit card to withdraw $200,000 in cash.

Elliott made the referral after reviewing a damning interim report into claims senior figures at the NSW branch were stockpiling millions of dollars in consultancy payments instead of spending it on veterans.

NSW residents are being urged to continue to support the veterans and RSL sub-branches in their area.

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