Friday, 19 December 2008

Three jailed over super conspiracy

Three Sydney men have been sentenced to a maximum of five years in jail for conspiracy which nearly succeeded in defrauding $150 million from the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme.

In sentencing today, New South Wales District Court judge Robyn Tupman said it was a well-planned fraud which involved large numbers of people who had spent a long time planning it.

"It is was no surprise that the conspiracy to defraud was able to succeed, given the lack of [internal] security at the bank. It is to be hoped that the problem has been rectified since the case came to light," she said.

Gregory James Bourchier, a 36-year-old former employee of JPMorgan Chase Investment Bank, was given a two-and-a-half-year non-parole period.

He will serve his sentence in protective custody because he is related to a police officer and a person who works for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Forty-seven-year-old former Telstra technician Barry Osbourne and 57-year-old unemployed man Ernst Hufnagl received three-year non-parole periods.

Justice Tupman says the three knowingly played an important role in getting the custodian bank JPMorgan Chase to approve the transfer of $150 million into four overseas banks on Christmas Eve 2003.

"Each role was important but was limited in the conspiracy. They had nothing to do with the initial planning nor were they at the level of organiser or principal," she said.

An error in the instructions was picked up by a Greek bank and the bulk of the transfer was frozen several day later.

However $3.5 million was lost after being transferred to Hong Kong.

Greg Bourchier took transfer documents from JP Morgan Chase Bank and gave then to a ringleader.

Later, when he received a fax of the fraudulent request, he got a superior to authorise the transfer of $150 million.

Telstra employee Barry Osbourne manipulated phone lines to make faxes appear to have come from another bank.

Ernest Hufnagl impersonated a banker and rang Bourchier to verify the transfer instruction.

Justice Tupman says one of the conspiracy leaders has left Australia and she sent another to jail earlier this year after he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

She says the prosecution and defence had agreed that the man, whose name is suppressed, did not know the scope of the fraud.

However she now accepts that he was a controller.

"He was an organiser and manager and played a more significant role than any of the others did," she said.

Justice Tupman says Bourchier had no criminal record, and Osbourne and Hufnagl had never been involved in a crime of this size.

There was no evidence about what the men expected to receive for their participation, although Osborne has told his parole officer he expected to get the deposit for a home.

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