Top Craig Kelly adviser Frank Zumbo wanted ‘power and control’
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Top Craig Kelly adviser Frank Zumbo wanted ‘power and control’

Craig Kelly’s longtime staffer indecently assaulted five young women in their pursuit of “power and control,” a court has told.

Francesco “Frank” Zumbo, 55, appeared in Sydney Downing Center court on Wednesday for the first day of a hearing on the 20 charges against him.

Top Craig Kelly adviser Frank Zumbo wanted 'power and control'

Police allege that the Maroubra resident indecently assaulted five women, including a teenager, between 2014 and 2020.

Camera icon After a suspension on Tuesday, Frank Zumbo will face the first day of his hearing. Dylan Robinson Credit: News Corp Australia

According to police, Zumbo kissed, rubbed, and groped the women while working in the office of Liberal MP Craig Kelly in a Sydney suburb of Sutherland. Police allege that the old political staffer also pulled his penis out of his pants in front of one of the women.

Zumbo has denied ten charges of common assault, seven charges of aggravated indecent assault, two charges of aggravated sexual touching without consent, and the charge of assault with an act of indecency.

He had previously been charged with 18 offenses, but the court was told on Tuesday that a fifth alleged victim had been added to the proceedings last week.

Crown Prosecutor Shaun Croner told the court that the “connecting thread” between the five alleged victims was Zumbo’s pursuit of “power and control”.

“He was a very capable person outwardly. He held a highly regarded position as an associate professor at one of Australia’s most highly regarded universities,” he said.

Camera icon Frank Zumbo is still employed by Craig Kelly despite the allegations. Credit: Included

He told the court that Mr. Zumbo also served as Mr. Kelly’s chief of staff at the time, a powerful position that allowed Mr. Zumbo to provide the women with “entry into the political sphere.”

“In that promise of career development and mentoring, the defendant acted in a man to control how with the complainants,” said Mr Croner.

The Crown Prosecutor told the court that Mr. Zumbo tried to befriend the alleged victims to gain their trust and then acted to isolate them before becoming “quickly accusing and demanding”.

The court was told that Kelly’s adviser’s right-hand man encouraged the kissing and hugging of employees in the workplace “as part of his culture as a person of Italian descent”.

Mr. Croner said the longtime political staffer would introduce topics of a sexual nature “to persuade complainants” to discuss personal matters with him. After gaining their trust, the court was told that Mr. Zumbo’s behavior towards the five women was “volatile, relentless and in some cases quite aggressive”.

“The defendant has initiated each of these complainants into a world of his own design. He was in control; he had the power,” the prosecutor said.

Camera icon Mr. Zumbo is battling 20 assault charges. Damian Shaw Credit: News Corp Australia

“He touched these women in a way designed to appear completely innocent out of context.”

Attorney Carolyn Davenport denied the allegations, claiming that her client had tried to create a “collegiate” and friendly work environment.

“He has never had sexual contact with them at any point,” she said.

More to come