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06-210 Bradley Cooper sentenced to eight years’ jail

Friday 23 June 2006


‘The eight-year jail term handed down today to Mr Bradley Cooper should act as a deterrent to corrupt behaviour by those who try to influence company officers to misuse company money for their own financial gain’, said Mr Jeffrey Lucy, Chairman of ASIC.

Justice Bruce James of the NSW Supreme Court sentenced Mr Cooper to serve a minimum of five years’ jail before being eligible for parole on 30 October 2010. Mr Cooper has been remanded in custody since his conviction on 31 October 2005.

Mr Cooper is the former Chairman of the FAI Security Group, which had dealings with the HIH Group.

Mr Cooper was convicted on six charges of corruptly giving a series of cash benefits to influence an agent of HIH Insurance Limited and on seven charges of publishing false or misleading statements with intent to obtain a financial advantage.

‘ASIC views such actions as serious breaches of the law and perpetrators can be assured they will face the force of ASIC’s investigation and legal resources to pursue them and lay charges’, Mr Lucy said.

‘Today’s jail term sends a message to the business community that actions such as this, bribing company officers and using false documents to obtain company money, will not be tolerated by the courts, ASIC or the community.

‘The co-operation of former Finance General Manager of HIH, Mr William Howard, who assisted in identifying the transactions and giving evidence against Mr Cooper, proved invaluable in securing Mr Cooper’s jailing’, he said.

In sentencing Mr Cooper, Justice James stated: ‘Bribery is an offence which is difficult to detect, difficult to investigate and difficult to prove. The present offences of bribery became capable of being proved only because Mr Howard…agreed to provide assistance to law enforcement authorities, including giving evidence against the prisoner.’

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions prosecuted the matter.

Background
Mr Cooper was sentenced after a 44-day trial in 2005. Six charges related to him paying approximately $124,000 to Mr Howard to facilitate payments to Mr Cooper (or entities associated with him) of $4.9 million, plus the forgiveness of a further debt owed to HIH of $1.79 million. A further seven charges of publishing false or misleading statements related to various occasions where HIH or its agents were induced into making payments to Mr Cooper or associated companies.

On 23 December 2003, Mr Howard was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, fully suspended on the basis of on-going assistance to the HIH investigation.

Other proceedings instituted following the establishment of the HIH Taskforce that are unrelated to the prosecution of Messrs Cooper and Howard for corrupt conduct include:

On 15 December 2004, Mr Ray Williams pleaded guilty to three charges: of failing to properly exercise his duties as company director by signing a misleading letter to FAI Note Holders; giving investors misleading information in the HIH 1998-99 Annual Report; and omitting information from a prospectus to raise up to $155 million for the takeover of FAI. On 15 April 2005, Mr Williams was sentenced to four-and-a-half years’ jail, with a non-parole period of two years and nine months.

On 16 February 2005, Mr Rodney Adler pleaded guilty to four charges: two of disseminating false information that was likely to induce people to buy HIH shares; one of making and publishing false statements; and one of being intentionally dishonest and failing to discharge his duties in good faith. Mr Adler was sentenced on 14 April 2005 to four-and-half years’ jail with a non-parole period of two-and-a-half years. Mr Adler’s appeal of the severity of his sentence was dismissed.

On 29 April 2005, Mr Terry Cassidy, former Managing Director, Australia of HIH Insurance Limited, pleaded guilty to three charges: two that he acted with reckless disregard in making a false or misleading statement to APRA; and one that he was reckless and failed to properly exercise his powers and discharge duties as a director of HIH Investments Holdings Limited. Mr Cassidy was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment and released after serving 10 months.

On 25 October 2005, Mr Dominic Fodera, Chief Financial Officer, HIH Insurance Limited, was charged with four counts of giving false and misleading information and a further two counts of failing to act honestly as a director in relation to the terms and effect of contractual arrangements entered into between HIH and its related companies and Hannover Re for the period ending 30 June 1999. On 8 November 2005, Mr Dominic Fodera was further charged with authorising the issue of a prospectus from which there was a material omission. The committal proceeding for the first matter is set down to commence on 1 August 2006 and a decision is pending following the committal hearing for the second matter.

On 22 November 2005, Messrs Daniel Wilke, Ashraf Kamha and Antony Boulden, former officers of FAI General Insurance Company Limited (FAIG), were charged. Messrs Wilke and Kamha were both charged with one count of failing to act honestly in the exercise of their powers and discharge of their duties as officers of FAIG, and Mr Boulden was charged with one count of being privy to the fraudulent altering of a book affecting FAIG.

Mr Boulden pleaded guilty to breaching section 590(1) of the Corporations Act on 2 June 2006. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for 12 October 2006. The committal hearings for Messrs Wilkie and Kamha are set down to commence on 14 August 2006.

On 13 December 2005, Mr Geoffrey Cohen, former Chairman of HIH Insurance Limited, was charged with making misleading statements to the HIH Annual General Meeting in December 2000. The matter is set down for a committal hearing to commence on 25 September 2006.

Statement by Jeffrey Lucy, ASIC Chairman, on sentencing of Mr Bradley Cooper

This is an important decision for ASIC in our HIH investigations. Following a lengthy trial, the jury decided Mr Cooper should be convicted of all 13 charges.

The 8-year jail term handed down today to Mr Bradley Cooper should send a strong message, and should also act as a deterrent to corrupt behaviour by any person who attempts to influence company officers to misuse company money for their own gain.

In sentencing Mr Cooper, the judge said: "There is a need for general deterrence in sentencing for offences of bribery. Bribery is an offence which is difficult to detect, difficult to investigate and difficult to prove.

"The present offences of bribery became capable of being proved only because Mr Howard … agreed to provide assistance to law enforcement authorities, including, giving evidence against the prisoner".

Today's sentence again shows that the criminal courts take white-collar crime very seriously.

End of release


Editor's note:
On Wednesday 11 March 2009, the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed the appeal of Mr Cooper against the severity of the sentence imposed on him by the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 23 June 2006.

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