The former CFO of Bill Express has been jailed for his role in the collapse of the online payments processor.
Peter Couper was sentenced by the Victorian Court of Appeal on 10 April to 22 months in jail, to be released after 60 days, and fined $10,000. The revised sentence followed an Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) appeal against a suspended 21-month jail sentence for his activities handed down by the Victorian County Court in July last year.
Couper was the CFO of OnQ Group, which went into administration in July 2008. In September 2011, he pleaded guilty to two counts of falsifying the books of Bill Express, one count of providing misleading information to the company’ s auditor and one count of providing false or misleading information to ASIC during an examination. The incidents occurred between 5 August 2007 and 18 February 2008.
At the hearing last year, Her Honour Judge Gaynor said Couper’s decision to plead guilty and assist in the prosecution of other individuals involved in the fraudulent activities saved him from immediate imprisonment.
However in his judgment, Justice of Appeal Tate said Couper’s conduct had the potential the harm the public’s confidence in the integrity of Australia’s markets.
“This is particularly so when the financial crime involves deceit and fraud perpetrated not only on an unidentified class of individuals who purchased and sold BXP shares during the relevant times, but a fraud perpetrated on the general public who are entitled to rely upon the integrity of the market and the appropriate enforceability of the offences which the Commonwealth Parliament has created in relation to it,” Tate said.
ASIC deputy chair, Belinda Gibson, welcomed the revised sentence and said lying to the regulatory watchdog would not be tolerated.
“This judgment from the Victorian Court of Appeal reinforces the importance of the market not being misled and the very serious consequences for company officers who breach their obligations under the the Corporations Act 2001 and who then mislead ASIC,” she said.
ASIC has also prosecuted Bill Express executives Newton Chan and Enzo Di Donato for their roles in the business fraud.