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Former Leighton exec sentenced over falsified books

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Former Leighton exec sentenced over falsified books

Leighton Holdings. Image courtesy ABC

Former Leighton Holdings director and CFO Peter Allan Gregg has been sentenced on charges of falsifying the company’s books, after he was found guilty on two counts last December.

ASIC revealed in a public statement that Mr Gregg had been sentenced to “a total effective sentence of two years’ imprisonment”, which will be served under an Intensive Correction Order (ICO) rather than jail. Half of the sentence will be served by way of home detention.

The sentence was handed down on Tuesday (30 July) in the New South Wales District Court.

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According to the companies regulator, Mr Gregg was found guilty on 11 December 2018 on two charged of breaching the Corporations Act by “having engaged in conduct that resulted in the falsification” of the company’s books.

First charge

ASIC said the first charge related to a written payment instruction made in August 2011 to Leighton’s finance department, instructing two payments worth a combined $15 million be made to United Arab Emirates–based company Asian Global Projects and Trading FZE.

The bulk of these funds — $12.5 million — was, according to the letter, for “marketing and advisory” services, while the remaining $2.5 million was instructed to be paid as a loan.

“The Crown alleged that the payment instruction was false because it did not describe the true purpose of the payment,” ASIC said.

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“At the sentencing hearing, it was submitted by the Crown that it was open for the court to find that the true purpose of the payment was to secure the waiver of a financial obligation that one of LHL’s [Leighton Holdings Ltd] subsidiary’s [sic] had in connection with its business in India.”

ASIC quoted judge Lakatos as stating that “the evidence is overwhelming that the purpose of the offender in writing and sending the payment instruction was to secure a waiver of the loan obligation which would accrue to Leighton Holdings”.

Judge Lakatos sentenced Mr Gregg to a 12-month jail sentence, to be served as an ICO.

Second charge

The regulator said that the second charge related to a separate written agreement that was executed by Mr Gregg on Leighton’s behalf to Asian Global in December 2011 for the provision of steel procurement services.

It said the agreement was backdated to August 2011.

According to ASIC, the judge ruled that this agreement was made in order to legitimise a $US15 million payment, one which, “having regard to the offender’s motivation and intention”, amounted to “a serious contravention”.

For this charge, Mr Gregg was sentenced to a concurrent jail term of two years, with 12 months to be served as home detention.

“I conclude that the offender benefitted in avoiding reputational damage to himself and Leighton Holdings, and that it was avoiding financial and reputational damage to his employer which primarily motivated him to engage in his conduct,” ASIC quoted the judge as stating.

As a result of the conviction, Mr Gregg has automatically been disqualified from managing companies for a five-year period.

“Australia’s financial system relies heavily on consumer trust and confidence in business,” ASIC commissioner John Price said.

“The falsification of a company’s books undermines that trust, and ASIC will take action when it occurs.”

The case has been deferred until 29 August 2019, where the sentence will be formalised, to allow time to assess the conditions under which Mr Gregg will serve home detention, ASIC said.

The Leighton brand was phased out as of 24 April 2015 — which media reports at the time said was in direct response to the allegations of corruption — to become CIMIC Group Limited.

CIMIC Group declined to comment.

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