A businessman who fled to Thailand while he was being investigated by ASIC has been sentenced to at least three years behind bars for fraud, after he told a court he was not “living the high life” or having “one big party” despite spending money on cocaine and lavish meals.
John Falconer, 70, the former director of technology company TZ Ltd, was extradited from Thailand to Australia in September 2017 after he helped to transfer $6.2 million in cash and shares from TZ between 2006 and 2008, then gave false information to the ASX.
Falconer personally benefited by $1.416 million, while the rest of the money went to other beneficiaries, including to pay the large gambling debts of his co-offender Andrew Sigalla.
Falconer pleaded guilty this month to six offences under the Corporations Act, including dishonestly breaching his duty as a director with the intention of gaining an advantage.
Giving evidence at his Supreme Court sentencing hearing, Falconer said he was “in a dream world” after he moved to Thailand in 2012 as the corporate regulator was closing in.
He said he watched from afar as Sigalla, the “architect” of the offending and TZ’s former chief executive, was charged and faced trial but he did not come back to Australia because he hoped Sigalla would be acquitted.
Sigalla was found guilty of 24 counts of fraud and sentenced in February 2017 to at least six years behind bars.
“I was living in a dream world, really, hoping things would sort themselves out,” Falconer said. “I just wanted to wait and see what happened.”
Falconer told a psychologist he had been “living the high life” during the period of the offending, when he used cocaine during work and leisure. When asked under cross-examination if the “high life” description was correct, Falconer responded: “Yes and no.”
He said it was “careless” and “stupid” of him to describe that period of his life as “one big party”.
“It was a higher lifestyle than I’d lived before,” he said. “I was never one to go out and buy Armani suits or buy flash motor cars or spend up big like that. The good life was lunches and dinners and cocaine use.”
Falconer said his former cocaine habit “wasn’t a lot of money” because the substance is “not an expensive drug” overseas. He added he was “flat broke” while living in Thailand.
Falconer resigned from the board of TZ in mid-2009 and began working as a consultant for miner Kingsgate at one of its subsidiaries in Thailand. In March 2012, two months after he was shown documents during a compulsory examination with ASIC, he left Australia and remained overseas until his extradition.
Justice Christine Adamson said earlier this month that it appeared Falconer was burying his head in the sand by remaining in Thailand, hoping that authorities wouldn’t want “another scalp” after Sigalla.
“He seems to have thought, ‘Well, I’ll take a punt,’ “ Justice Adamson said.
In sentencing Falconer, Justice Adamson said Sigalla was “the principal architect of most of the offending conduct” and was a “threatening and intimidating character who was bullying and abusive to those around him, including the offender”.
However, she said, Falconer “extracted considerable sums from his offending” and if he had not applied his signature to documents Sigalla used, the transactions would not have been possible.
“I accept that the offender is contrite and is unlikely to reoffend, even in the unlikely event that he is placed in any position of trust again,” Justice Adamson said.
“The offender has lost his reputation in the business community as a consequence of his offending conduct.”
Falconer wore a green prison tracksuit and waved to two women in the public gallery when he was sentenced in Sydney on Friday.
He was given four years and six months behind bars, backdated to his arrest in Thailand in June 2017. He will be eligible for parole after three years, in May 2020.
Article Source: https://www.smh.com.au/national