12 Aug 2014

SCF directors' lawyer takes aim at SFO

5:07 pm on 12 August 2014

The defence of three former South Canterbury Finance directors has described the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the company's collapse in 2010 as inept.

Lachie McLeod, Edward Sullivan and Robert White are facing 18 fraud charges relating to the $1.7 billion collapse of the company in 2010.

South Canterbury Finance had been accepted into the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme during the 2008 global financial crisis. The Government ended up paying $1.6 billion to its depositors in 2010.

From left: Edward Sullivan, Robert White and Lachie McLeod.

From left: Edward Sullivan, Robert White and Lachie McLeod. Photo: Mytchall Bransgrove

Pip Hall, QC, began on Tuesday by quoting a Latin phrase that translates as 'fraud is odious and is not to be presumed'. He told Justice Heath that in the course of the trial, that is precisely what the SFO and Crown have done.

Marc Corlett told the court the SFO investigation was so poor and incomplete that, in numerous instances, the defence has had to undertake forensic work necessary to discover the facts of the case.

Mr Corlett said the fact that the SFO didn't interview the former Secretary for the Treasury, John Whitehead - who allowed the company into the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme - was inconceivable.

He criticised what he called the "fanfare" with which the SFO announced that charges were laid against the men in December 2011. He said the SFO made a "splash" in announcing the $1.6 billion fraud, and the media picked up on it "gleefully" and have used it at every opportunity.

Mr Corlett said the three accused were never questioned by the SFO on their entry into the Crown Guarantee Scheme, which he said was mind-boggling, and the SFO did not bother to obtain any Treasury or Reserve Bank documents.

"They did not bother to interview any of those involved at Treasury or the Reserve Bank before laying charges. They did not bother, in particular, to speak to Mr Whitehead - the decision-maker, the man responsible for the decision to admit South Canterbury Finance into the scheme."

The defence will continue its closing submissions for the rest of the week.