Former NSW union boss Derrick Belan told his niece he had a brain tumour about the same time he was asking her to use members' money to pay for family holidays, clothes, lap-band surgery for his partner and orthodontic braces for his son, a court has heard.
Danielle O'Brien, who was a bookkeeper at the NSW branch of the National Union of Workers, broke down several times as she gave evidence at her uncle's hearing in Parramatta Local Court on Tuesday.
Belan has pleaded not guilty to 62 charges, most of them for obtaining financial advantage by deception.
He is accused of using the union's credit cards and accounts for his own personal benefit while state secretary between 2011 and 2015.
Between detailing some of the extravagant spending, Ms O'Brien said the pair had a very close relationship and that she "loved him very much".
She recalled the first time he gave her permission to personally use union money in 2010 - to get her hair done "so you look nice" for a Christmas party.
"He said 'just put it on the card'," she told the court.
For years after that, she would call him to ask if she could use the card to buy other items - mostly online purchases from stores including Big W and Toys 'R Us, the court heard.
Their conversations were "usually quite brief - I'd usually say 'can I have this?', he'd say 'yes', I'd say 'thank you'".
She told the court that in 2013 Belan called and asked for her to pay Dalcross Adventist Hospital for an operation for his then-partner, Paula Lancaster.
"I think it was for gastric band surgery," Ms O'Brien said.
She was also asked to pay for holiday accommodation in Lake Conjola on NSW's south coast, dinners, storage units, car registration, about $56,000 in personal legal fees and for his son to get braces from union accounts.
"Business shirts, shoes, anything that he asked for," Ms O'Brien said, adding that he got angry with her at times if she didn't.
But at one stage she said his behaviour changed and he looked "really thin, sickly".
"He had told me at one point (in 2011) he had a brain tumour and the medication made him unwell.
She was under the belief he had a tumour for about two years before discovering it wasn't true.
Belan's barrister, Anton Duc, on Monday said his client did not defraud the union of "one cent" and was not involved in any of the conduct he is accused of.
The hearing continues.