As the plot thickens in the Steve Vizard insider trading fiasco,
there’s one person apart from Vizard who is beginning to look more and
more like the other rabbit in the headlights – Vizard’s accountant Greg
Lay.

Yesterday, federal treasurer Peter Costello (the minister
responsible for ASIC) publicly confirmed for the first time that Lay
was the reason Vizard wasn’t charged with the criminal offence of
insider trading – “it all has to do with the accountant and whether or
not the accountant would give a statement,” Costello told ABC radio.

Today the big question is: why didn’t ASIC compel Lay to make a statement? Here’s how the Sydney Morning Herald’sCBD column so succinctly puts it this morning:

It’s hard to believe what a lucky individual Gregory Lay is.

Actually, make that impossible to believe.

Some
have fallen hook, line and sinker for the corporate lapdog’s excuse
that the reason it couldn’t pursue Stephen William Vizard on criminal
insider trading charges was because lucky Lay, the accountant, wouldn’t
give evidence.

If that’s the case, Lay would be the only person in the country who couldn’t be compelled to give evidence in a criminal trial.

Add
to that the lapdog’s ability to eke a witness statement using its
powers through section 19 – the notorious “star chamber” section of the
ASIC Act – and surely it could have had as many conversations with Lay
as it liked. Yes, Lay may decide not to answer on the basis of
self-incrimination, but he doesn’t have that luxury when it comes to
answers of non-incriminating information.

At least the federal treasurer, Peter Costello, appears not to have been so easily led.

Even he is asking for more information on how all this business about Lay’s witness statement came to be.”

Or as John Durie put it in today’s Financial Review:

… the question no-one seems to want to answer
is just why …Greg Lay… wouldn’t sign a witness statement. If his
evidence was seen as crucial to a criminal indictment, then why wasn’t
he offered immunity from prosecution?”

Despite the best efforts of Steve Vizard’s spin doctors, this story
isn’t going away. And the more that comes out, the more questions are
raised.

Peter Fray

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