Judge Sim Lake certainly didn’t go to the Australian school of white collar crime sentencing.

While the frauds and conmen who occasionally rob investors here generally cop little more than a couple of years in low security, Judge Lake has given former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling an effective life sentence.

Overnight Skilling received 24 years and four months behind bars. At the age of 52, that’s pretty much life as most people know it.

Co-accused Enron founder Ken Lay beat his rap by dying while out on appeal while the key architect of the Enron fraud, CFO Andrew Fastow, rolled over for the prosecution and received only six years’ porridge.

Yet according to Reuters, Skilling’s sentence was the lowest Judge Lake could give under federal guidelines for white collar crime. Memo Australian fraudsters: forget the US market.

On the other hand, perhaps the tough American sentencing could be used to attract more foreign businesses to set up headquarters here. The local watch puppies don’t have such sharp teeth or apparent willingness to pursue miscreants. For example, the current issue of the Bulletin notes:

A year after The Bulletin found Abe Goldberg in Warsaw, he remains untouchable. The case of Abe Goldberg, who skipped Australia in 1990 owing $1.5bn, should have been clear cut. Still wanted on 17 charges, Goldberg has made Warsaw his home.

But nearly a year after The Bulletin tracked down Goldberg for a series of articles nominated last week for a Walkley journalism award, Polish prosecutor Janusz Kaczmarek has called for Australian help. He is bewildered that the only official move has been to cancel Goldberg’s Australian passport.

So it goes.

Skilling goes down protesting his innocence, telling reporters before the sentencing: “In terms of remorse, I cannot imagine more remorse. All that being said, I’m innocent of every one of these charges.”

And thus the inevitable appeal. The danger for Enron victims enjoying some vengeance is that the appeal might have a chance, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

Peter Fray

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