Frank Zumbo: Court told Craig Kelly’s senior staffer wanted ‘power and control’

The right-hand man to former MP Craig Kelly was seeking “power and control” when he assaulted five women, a court has been told.Craig Kelly’s long-standing staffer indecently assaulted five young women in pursuit of “power and control”, a court has been told. Francesco “Frank” Zumbo, 55, appeared in Sydney Downing Centre court on Wednesday for the first day of a hearing into the 20 charges against him. Police allege the Maroubra resident indecently assaulted five women – including one teenager – on multiple occasions between 2014 and 2020. According to police allegations, Mr Zumbo kissed, rubbed, and groped the women while they worked at Liberal MP Craig Kelly’s office in the Sydney suburb of Sutherland. Police claim the long-time political staffer also pulled his penis out of his pants in front of one of the women.Mr Zumbo has denied the 10 charges of common assault, seven counts of aggravated indecent assault, two counts of aggravated sexual touching without consent, and the charge of assault with an act of indecency.He had previously been charged with 18 offences, 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 “common thread” between the five alleged victims was Mr Zumbo’s pursuit of “power and control”. “He was outwardly a very accomplished person. He held a highly ranked position of associate professor at one of Australia’s most highly ranked universities,” he said.He told the court that Mr Zumbo was also employed as Mr Kelly’s chief of staff at the time, a powerful position that allowed Mr Zumbo to offer the women “access to the political sphere”.“In that promise of career development and mentoring, the defendant acted in a way to control the way in which he interacted with the complainants,” Mr Croner said.The Crown prosecutor told the court that Mr Zumbo attempted to befriend the alleged victims to gain their trust and then acted to isolate them before “quickly becoming accusatory and demanding”. The court was told Mr Kelly’s right-hand adviser encouraged kissing and hugging employees in the workplace “as part of his culture as a person of Italian background”. Mr Croner said the long-time political staffer would introduce topics of a sexual nature “to coax the complainants” to discuss personal matters with him. After gaining their confidence, the court was told Mr Zumbo’s behaviour towards the five women was “volatile, relentless and in some cases quite aggressive”. “The defendant initiated each of these complainants into a world of his own design. He was in control, he had the power,” the Crown prosecutor said. “He touched these women in a way that was designed to appear, out of context, to be completely innocuous.”Defence lawyer Carolyn Davenport denied the charges and claimed her client had tried to create “a collegiate” and friendly work environment. “At no time did he have sexual contact with them at all,” she said.More to comeOriginally published as Top Craig Kelly adviser Frank Zumbo wanted ‘power and control’