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Prison term looms for Ariff after guilty verdict for fraud

 

A FULL-TIME jail term appeared inevitable for the former liquidator Stuart Ariff, a NSW District Court judge and a Crown prosecutor said after a jury found him guilty of fraud yesterday.

Giving reasons for revoking Ariff’s bail, Judge James Bennett, SC, said the prosecution had presented a ”formidable” case.

”The allegations are serious allegations and upon the material that I have before me, it would seem inevitable that the offender will suffer a period of incarceration,” Judge Bennett said.

A sentencing hearing has been listed in November.

Ariff, 48, took $1.18 million in 13 transactions between 2006 and 2008 from a company he was winding up, HR Cook Investments Pty Ltd.

More than $700,000 went to pay legal bills for other companies where he was liquidator, almost $400,000 went into the bank account of his practice, Stuart Ariff Insolvency Administrators, and $50,000 went to his mother, Barbara Ariff.

Susan Shedden, whose parents set up HR Cook in 1960 as a family investment company, said she was ”absolutely on top of the world” at the outcome of the four-week trial.

Trish McDonald, SC, for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, successfully applied for Ariff to be taken into custody immediately after the jury delivered 19 guilty verdicts.

Thirteen of Ariff’s offences, for transferring funds from HR Cook with intent to defraud, carried a maximum penalty of 10 years’ jail each, Ms McDonald said.

”It will be the Crown’s submission that a period of full-time imprisonment is the only sentence that would be available to your Honour in the circumstances,” she said.

The other six offences, of falsifying HR Cook’s accounts, carry a maximum fine of $22,000 or imprisonment for five years or both.

ASIC charged Ariff in August last year, three years after a consultant’s report commissioned by aggrieved creditors of a company under his control concluded he ”knowingly and deliberately made claims for items which were not appropriate or did not actually exist”.

The regulator brought civil proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court in 2009, which led to Ariff’s ban from the insolvency profession for life, and an order that he pay $4.9 million in compensation to creditors of 16 companies where he was liquidator or administrator. He became bankrupt two months later without paying the compensation.

The judge who banned him, Justice Patricia Bergin, noted that a liquidator was an officer of the court and described his conduct as ”quite appalling”.

HR Cook, one of the 16 companies in the Supreme Court case, was put into liquidation voluntarily in 2006 by Ms Shedden, her mother Joan Cook and a trustee for her niece and nephew.

Ariff’s task was to distribute the proceeds of a $3.2 million share sale, sell two investment units and pay capital gains tax.

Ms Shedden, who gave evidence of threatening to replace Ariff as liquidator in 2009, and her mother received their full entitlements from HR Cook, but tax of $612,000 was never paid and her niece and nephew did not receive dividends of $584,000