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Friday 2 September 2016

16-288MR Former Wickham Securities CEO jailed for five years

The former CEO of collapsed debenture issuer, Wickham Securities Ltd, was yesterday sentenced to five years' imprisonment after pleading guilty to various charges brought by ASIC, including fraud.

Garth Peter Robertson, 50, of Parrearra on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland pleaded guilty on 15 July 2016 to:

  • ten counts of dishonestly obtaining property totalling $761,504 from Wickham between December 2010 and November 2012;
  • one count of dishonestly obtaining $15,000 from Balmain NB Corporation Ltd in November 2010;
  • nine counts of giving or permitting the giving of false information about Wickham to its trustee, Sandhurst Trustees Ltd in 2012; and
  • one count of falsifying books relating to the affairs of Wickham in 2012.

In the Brisbane District Court yesterday, Mr Robertson was sentenced to a total of five years' imprisonment in respect of the 11 fraud offences, to be suspended after 20 months for a period of five years.

Mr Robertson was also sentenced to a total of 18 months' imprisonment for the offences relating to the false information given to Sandhurst and the falsification of Wickham's books. That sentence is to be served concurrently with the sentence imposed in respect of the fraud offences.

The Court heard that between 15 December 2010 and 27 November 2012, Mr Robertson dishonestly obtained a total of $761,504 from Wickham, which he used for his personal benefit, including for a house deposit, holiday, car, credit card and mortgage repayments and the payment of taxation debts.

On ten occasions, Mr Robertson, who was authorised to transact on Wickham's bank accounts, dishonestly directed payments of between $9,300 and $217,500 to his personal bank accounts. They were disguised as legitimate transfers in respect of some of Wickham's loan clients and creditors.  

A separate count related to $15,000 that Mr Robertson dishonestly obtained from Balmain on 25 November 2010. Mr Robertson purported to provide Wickham's bank account details to Balmain for the transfer of funds but provided his personal account details instead.

The Court also heard that between July and November 2012, Mr Robertson gave information to Sandhurst which:

  • falsely stated that no debentures had been issued by Wickham;
  • grossly inflated Wickham's cash holdings on eight occasions (on one occasion by $3 million when the actual balance was only $16,000); and
  • contained false information about the status of the loans advanced by Wickham, including that no loans were in arrears when in fact multiple borrowers had defaulted on the loans and no funds would be recovered by Wickham.

On 27 August 2012, Mr Robertson falsified a Wickham bank statement to give the impression that the account balance was approximately $1.6 million when the actual balance was less than $350,000.

Mr Robertson gave the altered bank statement to Wickham's accountant which was used to prepare Wickham's financial report for the year ended 30 June 2012. As a result, the financial report overstated Wickham's cash assets by nearly $1.3 million and showed net assets of approximately $900,000 when it actually had liabilities of $386,000.

On 30 November 2012, Mr Robertson gave Sandhurst a balance confirmation letter for a Wickham bank account, which he had altered to show a balance of approximately $10.8 million when the actual balance was less than $265,000.

In sentencing Mr Robertson, Judge Moynihan said that Mr Robertson took money from Wickham when he knew that the company was in trouble, which ultimately diminished the sum available to creditors of the company. Judge Moynihan said that the victims of Mr Robertson's "fraudulent and deceitful behaviour" had been adversely affected and that there were devastating consequences for those who lost money as a result of Mr Robertson's conduct.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions prosecuted the matter.

Background

Brisbane-based Wickham Securities collapsed in December 2012 owing more than $27 million to approximately 300 debenture holders. Grant Sparks and David Leigh of PPB Advisory were appointed as administrators and then liquidators in February 2013.

Further details of action taken by ASIC and outcomes can be found on ASIC's dedicated Wickham Securities webpage.

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Last updated: 22/09/2016 02:08