Director of public company embezzled AUD8.6 million
In February 2017, a director of a public company in Australia was convicted of embezzling AUD8.6 million and sentenced to jail for ten years with an order that he serve at least six years.
On 10 February 2017, Andrew John Sigalla, formerly a director of TZ Limited was sentenced to ten years imprisonment, with a minimum of six years to serve, having been found guilty on 22 November 2016 of 24 counts of dishonest conduct, following a jury trial in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
A statement said "The offences related to transfers of funds from the accounts of TZ Limited between December 2006 and March 2009. In relation to one of the counts, there was a transfer of TZ Limited shares worth approximately AUD500,000 to a company based in Hong Kong. The funds transferred to Mr Sigalla's accounts were largely used to reduce his debt with bookmaker Tom Waterhouse or to make mortgage payments on behalf of one of his personal companies."
The jury found that Mr Sigalla used his position as a director dishonestly to gain financial advantage by causing AUD8.6 million in company funds to be transferred to either himself, his related entities or others, contrary to section 184(2) of the Corporations Act .
Her Honour Justice Adamson said, 'The offending conduct took place over a period of more than two years in circumstances which demonstrated considerable deception, ingenuity, opportunism and greed. Private investment in public companies is a significant aspect of the market economy. If potential investors fear that the directors of public companies will misuse their positions to their own advantage, they will be loath to invest and the market will be deprived of capital which would otherwise have been available.'
The amount involved is not trivial but, also, it is not especially large. However, it has long been the case, in common law jurisdictions, that theft from an employer is treated very seriously. Indeed, in the 1970s, in the English courts, theft from an employer, even of small amounts, was subject to a sentencing guideline that jail was mandatory.
The threat to markets and capital investment seems to be slightly off target: the real question here is the vetting of those who have or can obtain sole control or influence over the financial transactions of a company.
Therefore the lesson to learn is that FCROs should examine the in-house processes of corporate clients to make sure that they have adequate measures in place to ensure proper financial management.