So Westpac has decided to persist with its attempts to find
the missing Vizard millions – the $2 million or so reimbursed to Steve Vizard in
2000 after the businessman accused his then bookkeeper, Roy Hilliard, of
stealing the money by forging the authority to sign cheques of more than
$10,000.

Having taken Vizard’s word for it the first time, the bank
is restarting its civil action against the now broke and unemployed bookkeeper.
Westpac’s case had been postponed pending the outcome of last year’s criminal
trial, which resulted in Hilliard pleading guilty to false accounting and led
to Vizard being charged with, and found guilty of, insider trading.

But with the civil action due for
a directions hearing on 24 March, how does Westpac propose to prove Hilliard
took the money, when it has no guarantee that Vizard will testify –
something he refused to do during the criminal trial on the grounds he might
have incriminated himself?

“I can’t see how the bank can proceed without Vizard giving evidence,”
says Hilliard’s solicitor, Magda Kron. But speculation is rife that the
disgraced businessman will refuse to take the stand in an attempt to avoid allegations
from Hilliard’s defence that the money was illegally siphoned into off-shore
tax havens at Vizard’s command.

And if Vizard doesn’t testify – or is a danger not to – in
a case that centres on his own allegations, then it begs the question: why is
Westpac pursuing with the action? Is it just a face-saving exercise for the
bank? Or is it an attempt to wear Hilliard down?

We put a call in to Westpac to ask if they had any guarantee
Vizard would cooperate fully with the case and we’re keen to hear what they have to say.

Peter Fray

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