Facing the biggest PR crisis since the
Yannon debacle ten years ago, ASIC chairman Jeffrey Lucy broke his
silence in a series of radio and newspaper interviews yesterday,
telling Virginia Trioli on ABC Victoria that ASIC’s three commissioners
provided the Commonwealth DPP with a brief for criminal charges against
Steve Vizard which was “worthy of serious consideration.”

Alas,
the Commonwealth DPP, Damian Bugg, decided there was not enough
“admissable evidence” to be confident that a criminal conviction could
be secured – but Lucy stressed “it was their [the DPP’s] decision
alone.”

This puts the heat on Bugg, who is so far refusing to
comment on why Vizard, a Liberal Party mover and shaker appointed to
the Telstra board by his friend Richard Alston in 1996, wasn’t arrested
and charged in what many observers believe to be one of the clearest
cases of insider trading.

Bugg has been a controversial DPP who
baulked at laying charges against travel rorter and Labor rat Mal
Colston as Alan Ramsey explained in this piece last November. These lines from Ramsey provide some background on Bugg:

Bugg is the man John Howard’s Government imported
to Canberra from Hobart in 1999 to become Commonwealth Director of
Public Prosecutions (CDPP). For the previous 13 years Bugg had been
Tasmania’s director of public prosecutions, appointed by Robin Gray’s
Liberal state government in 1986 – the same Robin Gray whose minority
government collapsed after the 1989 election when Edmund Rouse, a local
businessman, tried to bribe a Labor MP to support the Gray government.

Bugg
is now the bloke – so we were told by press release at 7:30 Monday
night, late enough to miss all that night’s major news bulletins – who
“advised” the Australian Federal Police, after “assessing” the matter
for seven weeks, that nothing further should be done about Windsor’s
accusations of attempted bribery against Anderson and his Nationals
colleague, Senator Sandy Macdonald.

The Peter Reith telecard is another interesting case presided over by Bugg. Check out Margo Kingston’s reports on that saga: Your right to know? Silly you – trust the AFP.

But these issues are often more complex than they first look. The AFR’s
Andrew Main, who has written books on both Rene Rivkin and HIH,
provided some insight into the process this morning with a page one
story revealing that Vizard’s accountant, Greg Lay, refused to give
evidence against his client in any criminal prosecution.

Lay is
a partner with Melbourne accounting firm Clarke Bentleys and was the
sole director of Vizard’s insider trading vehicle, Creative Technology
Investments. Vizard gave him a 10% commission on any profits. Lay was
advised orally by Vizard so the hard evidence of buying and selling
instructions would have been difficult to establish but ASIC did have
the evidence of the original whistleblower, fellow Vizard accountant
Roy Hilliard and no-one seems to be talking about him at the moment.

Peter Fray

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