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Lebanese election thief avoids jail for ballot fraud in Melbourne – begs for no conviction so he can get gun licence

A Lebanese immigrant who tampered with ballot papers to help get himself elected to a Melbourne council has been spared jail, but failed in his bid to avoid a conviction so he could obtain a gun licence.

Milad El-Halabi, 60, who was allowed to come to Australia at age 25 and was first elected to council in 2004, was fined $20,000 and given an 18-month community corrections order in the Melbourne County Court on Thursday after admitting tampering with the Merri-bek (then called Moreland City) Council elections in 2020.

Judge Stewart Bayles said former Labor councillor El-Halabi’s offending threatened to destroy public confidence in democracy and elected representatives.

“Tampering strikes at the heart of the democratic process and undermines the faith in that process,” he said.

The court heard that in the 2020 local government elections, which were conducted by mail due to Victoria’s draconian and damaging Covid restrictions, some residents who complained they did not receive their ballots were sent second packs which were then filled out and sent in.

But after the votes were tallied 23 electors were found to have voted twice, and a subsequent investigation by the Victorian Electoral Commission and Victoria Police found DNA from El-Halabi on all 23 fraudulent votes.

Judge Bayles said it was not clear what El-Halabi’s exact role in the vote tampering was, but found he “possessed and handled” the ballots, ABC News reported.

El-Halabi’s barrister Robert Richter KC asked for his client to be spared a conviction so he could qualify for a gun licence to “protect his farm” with his son, but Judge Bayles found a conviction was necessary.

El-Halabi, who became deputy mayor in 2006, resigned from his councillor position when the allegations were made public in 2022.

In the 2020 election he was the 4th and last councillor elected in the North-West Ward, with 2,109 votes, 283 more than the candidate in 5th place.

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