Poor old Steve Vizard has tied himself
up in so many knots that he finds himself unable to defend himself
against allegation after allegation. Refusing to give evidence on the
grounds of self-incrimination is damning in itself, but when you risk
perjury charges and potential criminal insider trading charges by
uttering anything more, you’ve just got to lie down and cop it.

Vizard’s
former bookkeeper Roy Hilliard certainly took the opportunity yesterday
to introduce new allegations against his former boss as his feisty
counsel, Peter Hayes QC, employed all sorts of rhetorical flourishes in
front of a large media pack.

Having
been scooped by News Ltd on Tuesday over the five other examples of
potential inside trading, the Fairfax press produced a classic
over-reaction today as The AFR declared on page one that Hilliard had made “sensational claims,” while The Age also put these “explosive allegations” on the front.

The best Fairfax comeback by The Age was this
Leonie Wood story today pointing out that Vizard instructed Greg Lay to
buy $150,000 worth of shares in US data transmission company Extant
just three days before Telstra announced a $50 million investment. This
was just after Vizard travelled with the Telstra board to North America.

Hilliard
went through a long committal hearing, so you would think he would have
dropped out the secret offshore bank accounts to dodge tax a little
earlier. The offshore proposal was apparently first mooted by Vizard’s
old Herbert Geer & Rundle mate Guy Jalland, but it never went ahead
as Vizard decided he wanted more control over it, which is why the
onshore Creative Technology Investments was established instead.

If
Vizard really approved every single Hilliard transaction, why did he
demand Westpac repay $2 million and call in private investigators? The
most feasible explanation is that Vizard was indeed doing his
aggressive tax planning, but Hilliard helped himself to some of the
proceeds along the way. The figure of $400,000 has been mentioned, but
what happened to the other $2.6 million, much of which was actually
money that should have gone to the tax man?

Vizard has never
been asked whether Hilliard actually paid back most of this missing
$2.6 million, yet a star-struck Westpac handed over $2 million just
five days after the powerful Melbourne establishment figure complained.

Stand
by for Westpac to take action in the courts to force Vizard to return
some of this money. Westpac still has the mortgage over Vizard’s $6
million Toorak home, so watching this relationship will be one of the
interesting next chapters in this extraordinary saga.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW