27 Jan 2017

Ex-Billabong boss jailed for defrauding millions

7:33 pm on 27 January 2017

Former Billabong chief executive Matthew Perrin has been sentenced to eight years in jail for fraud over the forging of his then-wife's signature to access more than $AU13 million from the Commonwealth Bank.

A sign for a Billabong clothing store in Sydney's CBD.

A sign for a Billabong clothing store in Sydney's CBD Photo: AFP

In the district court in Brisbane today, Judge Julie Dick said the bank was still owed about $AU9m and that Perrin had shown little remorse for his crimes.

The 44-year-old will be eligible for parole in late 2020.

Outside court, Perrin's lawyer Nathan Hounsell said an appeal had already been lodged.

"An appeal against my client's conviction has been filed and we'll be expediting that appeal as quickly as possible," he said.

The court was told that in 2008 Perrin forged his wife's signature on bank documents to mortgage the family home, which was solely in his wife's name, in order to pay off large debts that had accumulated from failed business deals.

Perrin pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He admitted to signing his wife's name on bank documents, but said he had her permission.

In December he was found guilty of 12 counts of fraud and forgery, but at the start of proceedings today prosecutors chose to drop three of the charges.

'A crime that strikes at the heart of commercial integrity'

Judge Dick said Perrin only confessed to the forgery after being confronted with substantial evidence.

"You turned to these criminal activities to stay afloat, you gambled on the ability to trade out," she said.

Judge Dick said white-collar crimes such as those committed by Perrin "strike at the heart of commercial integrity".

"Businesses large and small need to operate with the trust of their clients," she said.

In sentencing, Judge Dick said she had considered Perrin's clean criminal record, character references, charitable deeds in the community and public shame he had suffered as a result of publicity during the trial.

Perrin, who was dressed in a blue suit and white shirt, showed no emotion when he was sentenced to eight years for the fraud.

The former multi-millionaire surf wear boss committed the offences after a series of failed investments left him facing financial ruin.

The trial had heard Perrin and his then-wife, Nicole Bricknell, netted about $AU60m from their stake in Billabong when it was publicly floated in 2000, and lived in an $AU8m Gold Coast mansion.

But their fortune evaporated after Perrin's investments in a Chinese supermarket franchise soured, leaving him owing tens of millions of dollars to creditors.

He was eventually declared bankrupt in 2009.