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Gregg's baked goose: Aussie jury convicts Group boss for false accounting.

FCRO Subsection: 
Bryan Edwards

Just because a CFO has his hand on the cheque book doesn't mean he can write cheques for anything he likes.

It took two years, all but a few weeks, from charges being laid to securing a conviction, during which time, to be fair, ASIC was more than a little pre-occupied with the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (to give it its rarely set out full title) but at last a court has reached a determination in the case of Peter Alan Gregg, the former chief financial officer and a director of Leighton Holdings Limited, a civil engineering group.

It was not a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am kind of trial: it took five weeks and that was after a false start when the trial was stopped and a new jury impanelled because of a potential conflict when, after the trial started, a juror found out what it was about and told the Court of a close relationship with one of the board of a Leighton group company on the board of which Gregg also served.

Russell John Waugh, the former managing director of Leighton Welspun Contractors Pvt Ltd, was acquitted on one count of aiding and abetting the commission of an offence by Gregg under s1307(1) of the Corporations Act 2001, which creates federal offences. ASIC alleged that Mr Gregg, as an officer of Leighton Holdings Ltd (LHL), engaged in conduct which resulted in the falsification of LHL's books and referred the matter to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. Gregg was convicted on two counts and remanded on bail to return for sentencing on 31 January 2019.

Peter Gregg left Leighton in 2011 and went to UGL, also an engineering group, where he stayed until 2013. Both Leighton and UGL were bought out by the Spanish-based multi-national CIMIC, long after Gregg's departure (2015 and 2016 respectively. In 2013, Gregg went to Primary Health Care, a listed company, as CEO where he remained until he was charged with the offences for which he has now been convicted.

The charges were that Gregg "engaged in conduct that resulted in the falsification of books affecting or relating to the affairs of the company." Essentially, it involved fictitious transactions between the company and another called Asian Global Projects and Trading FZE. That company is registered in the free trade zone at Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Many on-line directories (which appear to be replicate information from one another) say that that company "sources steel products, scrap, coal, et. and equipments (sic) for its clients in India, KSA [Saudi Arabia], USA." Two payments totalling AUD15m were made under "an agreement to buy and sell between the company and Asian Global Projects and Trading FZE dated 1 August 2011." The agreement was supposed to be for the purchase of steel at a price that made it particularly attractive. However, no steel was delivered. The company looked into the deal after Gregg's departure and reported its findings to the Australian Federal Police in 2011. Then, ASIC stepped in to look at allegations of bribery and corruption during the period 2009 to 2011. It appears that the Gregg case was swept up in an investigation into unrelated

 


 

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