The Australian

Ex-Sydney Ferries boss corrupt: ICAC

UPDATED: Drew Warne-Smith  

4 November 2009

THE decorated former Navy chief Geoffrey Smith is likely to face criminal charges after the NSW corruption watchdog today found he deliberately misused his corporate credit card while running Sydney Ferries.

An investigation by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption has found Rear Admiral Smith racked up about $237,000 in personal expenses on his Sydney Ferries' visa card between September 2006 and March 2009, including private school fees, alcohol, home furnishings and everyday groceries.

ICAC also found he had tried to cover up his conduct by writing to NSW Transport Minister David Campbell to assure him Sydney Ferries' use of credit cards was in full compliance with government policy.

Rear Admiral Smith, who ran the operation to intercept asylum-seekers in 2001 and gave evidence to the children overboard inquiry, was sacked for misconduct from Sydney Ferries in May this year.
Following the public hearing in June, ICAC has recommended that the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions consider prosecuting him for misconduct in public office, as well as using his position as an officer of a statutory State Owned Corporation to gain advantage for himself contrary to the State Owned Corporations Act 1989.

"The commission found that between September 2006 and March 2009, Mr Smith charged a total of $237,102.23 of personal expenses to his Sydney Ferries corporate credit card,'' ICAC said in a statement.

"He did so knowing that he was not entitled to use the card to incur personal expenses and that its use was restricted to Sydney Ferries business expenses.

"The ICAC is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions with respect to the prosecution of Mr Smith for offences under the State Owned Corporations Act 1989 and for the common law offence of misconduct in public office.''

ICAC also recommended action be taken against former Sydney Ferries chief financial officer Vincenzo Rossello, saying he gave false or misleading evidence to the public inquiry.

Admiral Smith told the Independent Commission Against Corruption in June that he thought he was entitled to fund his lifestyle with the publicly funded Visa card because he intended to repay the money.

"I had in my mind that it was an entitlement of mine; that this was a normal part of business," Admiral Smith said.

Despite a salary package of $350,000, Admiral Smith was crippled by home loan repayments on a $1.4m mortgage and his wife Pamela's medical expenses. By the time he was stood down last March, he owed more than $100,000, despite refinancing his home and accepting an $80,000 loan from a family friend.

Admiral Smith repaid $135,000, but still owes $101,504. He was finally sacked from his position in May this year.

- With AAP