Finance company accountants struck off

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Former Bridgecorp director Robert Roest has had his named removed from the professional body for chartered accountants. Photo / Dean Purcell
Former Bridgecorp director Robert Roest has had his named removed from the professional body for chartered accountants. Photo / Dean Purcell

Two high-profile directors of failed finance companies and a third Waikato accountant have today had their names struck off the professional register of accountants.

Jailed Bridgecorp chief financial officer Rob Roest and Five Star Consumer Finance director Anthony Walpole Bowden had their cases brought before a disciplinary tribunal hearing in Auckland on Wednesday.

Together with Robert Philip Bell from Tirau, the men were struck off as members of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA) this morning.

Roest was currently serving nearly seven years in jail after being found guilty on 18 charges of misleading investors and other charges relating to the Medici luxury launch.

Roest, along with Rod Petricevic and Peter Steigrad, were directors of Bridgecorp when it collapsed in July 2007 owing 14,500 people around $490 million.

He was sentenced in May to six years and six months on 10 Securities Act charges and a further eight charges brought under the Crimes Act and Companies Act.

Roest was found to have knowingly made false statements. Some charges related to statements in Bridgecorp's offer documents that the company had never missed a payment of interest or principal to investors.

Last month, he was handed another three months in jail for his part in the fraudulent use of $3.5 million worth of Bridgecorp funds to buy the Medici yacht in 2002.

Roest did not attend the tribunal this week and entered no plea.

The NZICA said he had acted dishonestly "with intent to deceive the investing public, as the Court found, is incompatible with membership of the Institute".

The Institute's Professional Conduct Committee successfully sought full costs of $4,100, although the tribunal recognised Roest was now bankrupt.

The NZICA said the convictions reflected on Roest's fitness to practise accountancy and brought the profession into disrepute.

Bowden was a former director of Five Star Consumer Finance, which collapsed in 2007 with losses of $42 million. Five Star Finance and Five Star Debenture Nominee owe a further $43 million.

He pleaded guilty to Securities Act charges late last year and was sentenced to nine months' home detention and 300 hours' community work.

In June this year, he pleaded guilty to two theft charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office. He was sentenced to another nine months' home detention and ordered to complete an additional 100 hours' community work.

Five Star marketed itself as a low or modest-risk finance entity which made small consumer loans for household purchases such as fridges.

Instead, it was allegedly investing large sums in complex commercial and related-party loans totalling more than $50 million.

The tribunal this week noted that Bowden had acknowledged that his convictions "bring the profession into disrepute".

"The Tribunal notes the Member's apology and remorse, and that he has appeared at this hearing."

Nevertheless, the tribunal ordered Bowden to be struck off.

Bowden must also pay costs of $4,310.

The third accountant, Bell, operated four Waikato-based companies offering accountancy services, which were all liquidated after he failed to make tax payments.

He was suspended in December last year and found guilty of breaching the institute's code of ethics. When the NZCIA had sought information from him in the past, he had failed to reply in time.

Bell did not attend the tribunal but pleaded guilty to the charges, admitting that he had failed as a professional.

"The Member allowed his practice companies to get into arrears with their PAYE and GST and failed to adequately deal with the situation over a number of years," the tribunal said today.

Bell has already been censured by the Tribunal in 2006 for similar mismanagement.

"In these circumstances the Tribunal considers that to protect the public and to ensure maintenance of professional standards the only course available is to remove the Member's name from the register."

Bell was also ordered to pay costs of $8,027.

All three men have 14 days to appeal the decision.

A fourth accountant who case was heard yesterday can not be named because a 14-day name suppression order was imposed.

A fifth accountant's case was adjourned until October.

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