Bridgecorp fate in judge's hands

Rod Petricevic, Rob Roest and Peter Steigrad will return to Auckland High Court to find out if they are guilty as charged - or not - on April 5.

Accused Bridgecorp directors Rod Petricevic, Rob Roest and Peter Steigrad will know in two weeks if their "it was the other guy" defences worked.

The trio left Auckland High Court yesterday on remand with almost six months of contested evidence and legal sparring behind them.

They will return on April 5 to hear the verdict of Justice Geoff Venning, who is now evaluating the evidence to determine if they are guilty or not guilty on 10 Securities Act charges of misleading investors in Bridgecorp’s 2006/2007 prospectus and associated financial statements.

Bridgecorp’s June 2007 collapse saw 14,000 investors lose $459 million – an average of about $33,000 each.

Messrs Petricevic, Roest and Steigrad pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment or a fine of $300,000.

Company chairman Bruce Nelson Davidson pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to home detention, ordered to do community work and ordered to make $500,000 reparation.

Fellow director Gary Urwin also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentence.

Messrs Roest and Petricevic sat through the entire trial beside their lawyers, giving defence evidence under vigorous Crown cross-examination.

Mr Steigrad lives in Sydney and flew in for his turn in the witness box last month.

In the final days, the arguments came down to finger pointing.

Mr Petricevic’s lawyer Charles Cato said Mr Petricevic was Bridgecorp’s entrepreneur, concerned with finding new opportunities for growth and was not involved in day-to-day accounting matters, while finance director Mr Roest was the one in charge of the books.

Mr Roest’s lawyers Paul Dacre and Rowan Butler said Mr Roest was the most junior of directors and had a right to rely on the experience of the lending team below him.

Mr Steigrad's Queen's counsel Brian Keene, said Mr Steigrad, a non-executive director, was more entitled to rely on information from the company's management than his co-accused, and that he was kept in the dark on important financial information - particularly that related to missed interest payments.

The Crown called members of Bridgecorp’s senior management team among its witnesses.

At the core of the prosecution case is the closeness between Bridgecorp and Barcroft Holdings and how allegedly undisclosed related party loans to Barcroft at one point topped $213 million.

Barcroft was behind Bridgecorp’s failed Momi Bay luxury resort in Fiji.

Considerable time was spent on the issue of missed payments – the Crown alleged Bridgecorp started missing interest payments in the five months before its July 2007 collapse.

Meanwhile, Bridgecorp’s prospectus claimed the company had never missed payments to investors.

Mr Petricevic denies knowing about the late payments until he read about them in a newspaper after Bridgcorp was placed in receivership.