Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Bridgecorp trial: Petricevic lawyer fingers Roest

Former Bridgecorp directors Rod Petricevic (R) and Robert Roest leave the Auckland High Court last year after the sentencing of chairman Bruce Davidson. Photo / NZ Herald
Former Bridgecorp directors Rod Petricevic (R) and Robert Roest leave the Auckland High Court last year after the sentencing of chairman Bruce Davidson. Photo / NZ Herald

Former Bridgecorp director Rob Roest was in "serious dereliction of his duties" for not telling other directors about missed payments to investors, his co-accused's lawyer has alleged.

Roest - along with fellow directors Rod Petricevic and Peter Steigrad - are accused of misleading investors in Bridgecorp prospectuses and offer documents and are on trial in the High Court at Auckland.

Petricevic and Roest also face eight counts of knowingly making false statements in offer documents that Bridgecorp had never missed interest payments or repayments of principal to investors.

According to the Crown, Bridgecorp began missing payments from February 7, 2007, when it failed to pay $206,000 due to investors.

Roest has previously told the court that he discussed delayed payments to investors with Petricevic in morning meetings, but did not raise it directly to the board.

However, Petricevic's lawyer, Charles Cato, claims his client had no knowledge of missed maturity payments to investors until just before the company went into receivership in July 2007, owing 14,500 investors $459 million.

In his closing submissions today, Cato said the court could not place any significant weight on Roest's evidence and suggested no such discussions with Petricevic took place.

Cato then alleged Roest was in "serious dereliction of his duties" by not informing other directors and Bridgecorp's trustee about the payments.

It was "human nature" for a co-accused to attempt to "mitigate their position" when standing trial, Cato said.

Using Roest's evidence to assert Petricevic knew about missed payments, the Crown was in a very "awkward position", he said

Cato said the Crown wanted to use the evidence as a "leg up" in the case against Petricevic but yet had been "most vitriolic in their treatment" of other parts of Roest's defence.

The lawyer labelled Roest as a central figure within the company, who had " his finger well and truly on the financial pulse of Bridgecorp".

If anyone knew about the company's obligations to report issues to the trustee, it was Roest, Cato said.

On the other hand, Cato said Petricevic was not involved in the day-to-day running of Bridgecorp but focused instead on growing and building the business.

Cato will continue giving closing submissions this afternoon, which will be followed by the final arguments from counsel for Roest and Steigrad.

Justice Geoffrey Venning has indicated he will give his verdict on April 5.

That same week, former Bridgecorp director Gary Urwin is expected to be sentenced after a disputed facts hearing.

Urwin originally pleaded not guilty and appeared in court with Petricevic, Roest and Steigrad. But he changed his plea in November last year.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years' jail or a fine of up to $300,000.

Former Bridgecorp chairman Bruce Davidson was sentenced to nine months' home detention in October after changing his plea to guilty, and was ordered to pay $500,000 reparations and perform 200 hours of community work.

- NZ Herald

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