Illegal payment sees former minister disqualified as property trust director

Former Health Minister, Dr Michael Wooldridge, is one of five former directors of Australian Property Custodian Holdings Limited (APCH) who have been penalised by the Federal Court for breaching their responsibilities as directors.

The Judgement came after an Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) investigation found that the five directors had breached their duties as directors by amending Prime Trust's constitution so a $33 million fee could be paid to the trust's founder, William Lionel Lewski.

While the court ruled that Lewski's conduct had been "central in Prime Trust's suffering a substantial loss", it found that Dr Wooldridge and directors, Mark Frederick Butler and Kim Jaques, had "capitulated to the interests of Mr Lewski", "rather than acting in the best interests of the members [of the trust]".

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The Court ruled that the fifth director, Peter Clarke, had "sat passively" and "merely waved through a resolution which allowed a $33 million breach of trust".

The Federal Court delivered the following disqualifications and penalities:

Lewski — disqualified from managing a company for 15 years and fined $230,000

Wooldridge — disqualified from managing a company for two years and three months and fined $20,000

Butler — disqualified from managing a company for four years and fined $20,000

Jaques — disqualified from managing a company for four years and fined $20,000

Clarke — fined $20,000, but did not receive a disqualification.

The Court granted both Wooldridge and Lewski a stay on the implementation of the orders until 23 December 2014.

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