27 Apr 2012

Judge outlines why Petricevic avoided longer sentence

7:05 am on 27 April 2012

The judge who sentenced Rod Petricevic to six-and-a-half years in jail says the former Bridgecorp boss avoided a longer sentence because of his previous good character and age.

Petricevic, 62, was the managing director of Bridgecorp when it collapsed in 2007 and was found guilty of 18 charges spanning the Crimes, Companies and Securities Act.

The Financial Markets Authority and the Shareholders' Association have welcomed the sentencing, which is at the higher end of the scale.

Justice Venning told Petricevic he had considered a sentence of seven-and-a-half years, but he had to take into consideration a number of character references and his current age.

"You are entitled to credit for the fact that at the age of 62, you appear for the first time for sentence on criminal offending. I also acknowledge that imprisonment would be hard for you at this stage of your life", he said.

However, Justice Venning said Petricevic failed to show true remorse, something which could have reduced his sentence further.

"You may be sorry the investors lost their money but that is not true remorse; you do not accept responsibility for those losses, you still do, apparently, do not consider you did anything wrong, you maintain your innocence. I do not accept that you have shown genuine remorse and I'm not prepared to give any credit for remorse in those circumstances", he said.

Justice Venning acknowledged media coverage of Petricevic had been intense during his trial, but said it was not undeserving considering the scale of the offence.

Two other directors, Rob Roest and Peter Steigrad, are awaiting sentencing on related matters.

Petricevic and Roest are also being prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office, on charges the SFO says could incur seven to 10 years in prison.

Further comment

Meanwhile, the Shareholders Association says the jail sentence handed down to Petricevic shows the courts are not going soft on people who knowingly and recklessly disregard the law.

Chairman John Hawkins says Petricevic's offending was in a different league to other recent cases, and wasn't just deliberate, but over an extended period of time.

He expects there may be a few other people facing similar charges who are now fairly nervous about what the outcome means for them.

Mr Hawkins says any contribution that Petricevic might have been able to make in terms of compensation are tied up in trusts which means they are beyond the reach of creditors and law.

"We really do need to have a bit of a rethink around that so that those who ultimately do the time don't benefit from the crime", he says.

Mr Hawkins says the association awarded its 2011 Golden Glob Award for appalling corporate governance to Petricevic, but didn't make the win public until Thursday, because it didn't want to interfere with the judicial process.