Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Bridgecorp trial: Petricevic in custody

Rod Petricevic, director of failed finance company Bridgecorp. File photo / Sarah Ivey
Rod Petricevic, director of failed finance company Bridgecorp. File photo / Sarah Ivey

Bridgecorp directors Rod Petricevic and Rob Roest have been found guilty on all the charges they were facing in the High Court in Auckland. Both men have been remanded in custody, with Justice Venning saying a sentence of imprisonment was "inevitable" for Petricevic.

Fellow Bridgecorp director Peter Steigard has been found guilty on six of the ten Securities Act charges he faced. He has been remanded on bail until sentencing on May 18.

Petricevic will be sentenced on April 26 and Roest also on May 18. The Crown had indicated it will be seeking lengthy jail terms for the men. Some of the charges carry a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment.

The three men went through a four-month long trial on charges of misleading investors.

Petricevic, Roest and Steigrad faced 10 Securities Act charges and are accused of making untrue statements in Bridgecorp's offer documents. Petricevic and Roest were also both accused of knowingly making false statements in offer documents that Bridgecorp never missed payments of interest or principal to investors.

The Crown says Bridgecorp began missing payments to investors nearly five months before it collapsed in July 2007, owing 14,500 investors $459 million.

VICTIM WELCOMES VERDICT

Rex Warren, who invested $1 million in the company, said it was the right outcome but it brought little closure.

"Of course they're guilty, but the punishment doesn't fit the crime."I would be willing to pull the lever or pull the trigger if they were hung,'' said the Katikati man.

Mr Warren believed his loss could have been avoided.

"I can say we made mistakes, but in my case most of the (Bridgecorp) staff knew what was happening when we invested our money but they didn't say anything.''

THE TRIAL

The trio's trial began in October after numerous delays and in its final days, Petricevic and Roest began pointing the finger at each other.

The bone of contention was whether Roest informed Petricevic about problems with payments to investors.

Roest said he told his co-accused about it in morning meetings, while Petricevic denied this ever happened.

Petricevic's lawyer Charles Cato labelled Roest as a central figure at Bridgecorp who had a more "hands-on" position than his client, who was an "entrepreneur" tasked with growing the business. But Roest's counsel Rowan Butler said his client was the "most junior of all the directors" and had been in the role less than a year when payment issues emerged.

Roest had "nothing to gain from silence" and would have informed Petricevic - whose office was right next door - about the payment problems, Butler said.

Steigrad's lawyer Brian Keene, QC, said the non-executive director knew nothing about the missed payments and "faced almost institutional silence about this at board meetings".

Former Bridgecorp director Gary Urwin was due to be sentenced this week but this has now been adjourned until later in April.

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

Urwin's lawyer David Reece asked in November for a home detention report to be prepared, but prosecutor Brian Dickey said the Crown would seek a term of imprisonment.

The charges under section 58 of the Securities Act carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and fines of up to $300,000. Those under section 242 of the Crimes Act carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

Charges under section 377 of the Companies Act carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment or fines of up to $200,000.

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.

- APNZ

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