The actions of a former chief-of-staff to the National Australia Bank boss and the role of a long-serving corporate supplier are at the centre of a police investigation into allegations of corporate fraud worth tens of millions of dollars. Detectives raided properties in North Sydney, Milsons Point and Potts Point on Tuesday over allegations a NAB employee obtained commissions for approving over-inflated invoices to an executive events firm, Human Group, well in excess of what they should be.
Police are reviewing what role, if any, was played by Rosemary Rogers, the former chief-of-staff to NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn who worked for the bank for two decades.
No charges have been laid.
It is understood allegations of corrupt commissions being paid for contracts were first reported to NAB by a whistleblower within the bank shortly before Christmas last year.
The allegations were then put to the employee concerned.
By January NAB reported the alleged fraud to police and the bank has been working closely with detectives since.
Investigators arrived at the North Sydney office of Human Group, shortly after 9am on Tuesday.
At the boutique office of the former NAB supplier, police seized large amounts of documents and electronic storage devices.
The Potts Point home of Human Group director Helen Rosamond and the Milsons Point office of the company’s accountant were also searched by police.
Ms Rosamond was present as investigators searched the North Sydney office.
Investigators from State Crime Command’s Financial Crimes Squad established Strike Force Napthali earlier this year, after they received the report about the alleged fraudulent scheme.
In a video message to NAB staff late on Tuesday Mr Thorburn said: "If these allegations are proved to be true it is a very serious breach of trust and banking is based on trust.
"And I, like you, are very proud of our company and what banking stands for and these sort of allegations really hurt our reputation."
Earlier on Tuesday Mr Thorburn said the bank would continue to "fully cooperate" with police.
“We will not be commenting further while this remains under police investigation," he said. "Our focus must remain on serving our customers with professionalism and integrity.”
Financial Crimes Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett said detectives would work closely with the financial institution’s investigators to determine what has occurred, but appealed for anyone who may have information to contact police.
“Our Corporate Corruption Team has been working tirelessly to track payments and other funds to determine if an offence has been committed,” she said.
“From the information we have gathered so far, we know there are people who have significant information that may assist us, and we are appealing for them to come forward … it’s likely even a small piece of valuable information or insight could assist us in resolving the matter swiftly.”
Ms Rogers held the position of chief-of-staff for nine years, including under former chief executive Cameron Clyne, before her resignation in December last year.
Shortly after her departure, an email written by Mr Thorburn to the bank's leadership team was leaked, which spoke of Ms Rogers and a "lapse of judgment," The Australian reported in December.
At the time, the newspaper suggested the email excerpt referred to messages found on Ms Rogers' computer, which were critical of fellow bank colleagues. A NAB spokesman said that was incorrect.
with Clancy Yeates
NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn.
Photo: Louie Douvis
Author: Lucy Cormack = Lucy Cormack is a crime reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.