|Former Sydney Ferries head could face prison|
|Thursday, 25 June 2009 14:20|
The former head of Sydney Ferries, Rear Admiral Geoffrey Smith, yesterday attended a hearing at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) over allegations that he charged nearly US$190,000 in personal expenses to the government-issued corporate Visa card.
The offences could land him a substantial term in prison.
Admiral Smith told the commission he thought he was entitled to charge overseas holidays, private school fees, furniture and supermarket bills to the card because he intended to repay the money. He claimed that he did not know that it was company policy that corporate credit usage was restricted to business-only transactions.
“I had in my mind that it was an entitlement of mine,” he was quoted as saying by The Australian.
Two Sydney Ferries staff members present at the ICAC hearing testified that they approached Admiral Smith to remind him not to breach guidelines. It was reported that he also ignored a warning from his Chief Financial Officer, Wendy Hughes, that he would be sacked it he did not stop his private spending.
“Geoff didn’t seem to think it was serious,” she said, “In the navy, they could do that and pay it back later.”
Admiral Smith retired from the Royal Australian Navy after 37 years in 2002.
He did, however, eventually begin to repay some of the money. To date, he has repaid about US$107,000.
During his employment at Sydney Ferries, he was paid over US$275,000 a year. He said that he had fallen into financial difficulties when his wife fell sick and accumulated medical bills. He said he also struggled to pay off his US$1.1 million mortgage. He has since put the house up for sale.
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