COMMENT: Sonya Causer, the woman who stole millions from retailer Clive Peeters, is tonight a free woman after a deal was cut between Causer, the one time payroll master at the Melbourne based retailer and Clive Peeters boss Greg Smith.
Instead of being charged by the Victorian Police, Causer handed over millions of dollars worth of property, cash and motor vehicles to Clive Peeters in a move that several suppliers to Clive Peeters have said, “saved the company”.
Others have said that Causer should be named employee of the year for saving Clive Peeters. While others are disgusted that the woman who openly stole $20M has not been charged because Clive Peeters executives have failed to inform the police because they are “simply looking after themselves” they said.
For 12 months, Clive Peeters has been high on the watch list of local credit managers, with several of them now claiming that Causer has single handily delivered the company a future as opposed to facing administration.
Yesterday, the overwhelming consensus among these key credit controllers was that “without Causers, smart investment nous” the company would be “facing administration”.
They also claimed that Causer should be re hired to run Clive Peeters property portfolio. “All that Clive Peeters has to do now is hand over the titles to the Causer property portfolio to the bank and borrow against it while also collecting the rent. Then when the time is right, sell the property for what could be more than the $20M being talked about today” said one credit manager.
The move by the directors of Clive Peeters raises serious questions as to the integrity of the executives running the company and the procedures that they had in place prior to the discovery of the theft which is one of the biggest fraud cases involving an Australian retailer.
Clive Peeters CEO Greg Smith had a vested interest in cutting a deal with the thief who stole millions, because at the time the deal was cut, mid last week, he was facing the possibility of his company being placed into administration if the funds stolen from the retailer could not be recovered quickly.
Smith and his advisors, knew that if Clive Peeters called in the police and Causer was charged that the evidence in the case, which in this case was property and motor vehicles, would be seized by the Police under Court orders and not handed over untill the completion of a trial which in the event of a not guilty plea, could have been two years away.
This would have been disastrous for Clive Peeters as both their bankers National Australia Bank, their suppliers and the insurance Companies who supply trade credit to vendors supplying Clive Peeters would have pulled the plug on the company.
ChannelNews has been told that advisors to Clive Peeters pointed out to Causer the that former Geelong Mayor Frank De Stefano, was jailed for a maximum of 10 years after he pleaded guilty to stealing $8.5 million from clients of his accountancy practice.
Causer, terrified that she faced jail and being separated from her three children broke down and cut a deal with lawyers from Freehills who were acting for Clive Peeters.
Freehills who had also bought in their own forensic accountants then prepared documents for the transfer of the assets to Clive Peeters.
They also sought application before the Supreme Court in Melbourne for orders relating to the agreement between Causer, her companies and Clive Peeters.
The fact that the police were not called raises some serious questions about the past performance of Clive Peeters and CEO Steven Rowarth.
Rowarth, who is responsible for all financial operations at Clive Peeters, not only failed to detect the systematic fraud but so did his financial accountants Deloittes and later KPMG, who conducted a due diligence audit of the retailer 6 months ago with a view to presenting the company to prospective investors.
Ironically, Clive Peeters was trying to raise $20M by way of a share sale however no investors were interested in the offer.
Then along came Sonia Causer, who has turned out to be the saviour of Clive Peeters. She gets away scot free and Clive Peeters gets to keep their company till another day.
It will be interesting to see what happens next time, when some shop lifter steals from Clive Peeters. Maybe they will also be given a free ride if the goods are returned.