If Tasmanian Premier, Paul Lennon, wants a thorough-going,
transparent, rigorously forensic inquiry into the Crown Casino suite upgrade
and Betfair affair he need look no further than Betfair UK’s very own company
secretary and legal director, Martin Cruddace.

Cruddace has been the subject of a long-running Private Eye
campaign regarding the Daily Mirror “City Slickers” affair. The affair stemmed
from Daily Mirror columnist, James Hipwell’s, alleged involvement in a scam
which involved buying shares in companies, tipping them in the City Slickers
business column and then selling them after they took off. Mirror editor, Piers
Morgan, and others were also alleged to be involved.

According to Private Eye (January 6-19) Trinity Mirror CEO,
Philip Graf, was worried by the “Slickers” and asked Mirror group legal
director, Paul Vickers to investigate. He asked Cruddace to look into it. In January
2000, Cruddace found “the evidence appears to exonerate the Slickers from any
allegation of ramping.” Shortly afterward the Slickers, and the editor, bought up
big in a company called Viglen, tipped them in the column and profited after.
The UK Department of Trade and Industry expressed concern that the column might
be breaching the law so Cruddace investigated again and told the DTI that while
the column was “unusual for a tabloid newspaper” it was a legitimate form of

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Today in Australia,
similar situations can’t arise as journalists are required to disclose shareholdings
in companies they write about. Even during wild west booms of the 1960s
Australian journos were fairly careful. Back in the Poseidon mining boom one
young journalist misrepresented turnover figures to boost a company but it was
easily discovered and punished.

This is not to say that during the era lots of
finance and other journalists – along with PR people and just about everybody else
– weren’t constantly exchanging tips and inside information. Some of them made
and lost fortunes. But things haven’t changed much in the Old Dart and Cruddace,
just by “coincidence,” not only managed to investigate the Slickers but also
bought shares in three companies just before the column tipped them. Private
reports he also persuaded his girlfriend, his mother and his girlfriend’s
father to have a flutter as well.

Hipwell is now a convicted criminal. Piers Morgan needs some
reputation management expertise. Cruddace left the Daily Mirror in 2001,
worked for a law firm for a while, and is now Betfair company secretary and
legal director. While Lennon has done absolutely nothing illegal, and really
only has political and perceptual problems, they might respond well to a
similar quick exoneration.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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