CBA still in denial as fraudsters sentenced to a decade in jail
The Commonwealth Bank has spent seven years denying and covering up the role of its staff in a $76 million loan fraud that has left unwitting customers homeless.
The bank still has not compensated up to a dozen victims after its loan managers helped professional poker player Bill Jordanou and accountant Robert Zaia set up loans in customers' names using fake documents.
The pair then blew millions of dollars on gambling junkets to Las Vegas and Macau, gaudy jewellery, luxury cars, jet skis and a speed boat called "Bad Boys".
Bill Jordanou leaves Melbourne Magistrates Court after getting bail in May 2014.
More than $58 million in dodgy loans were approved by the CBA between 2004 and 2011, in what was described by County Court Judge Paul Lacava as one of the "largest frauds to appear before a court in this state".
On Thursday, Jordanou was sentenced to 12 years in jail and Zaia 10 years.
In response to the jail sentences, CBA spokeswoman Jessica Rogers said the bank was "pleased to see that justice has been served", that "investigations found no evidence of collusion or knowing involvement by bank staff", and that the bank couldn't comment on the fate of the fraud's victims "for confidentiality reasons".
The bank has refused to accept any responsibility and has blocked compensation to victims, who lost homes and retirement savings in the scam, despite CBA's recent claims that it had undergone a cultural transformation in response to a string of scandals.
At least three of the victims remain destitute after the bank and its lawyers pursued them over the loans, for which it continues to hold them responsible.
CBA has refused for four years to answer questions about the fraud as the conmen dragged out their court case.
But Fairfax Media can reveal a manager at the bank's Box Hill branch in 2011 admitted to CBA to several breaches that assisted in Jordanou and Zaia's offending.
Former CBA mobile lending manager Shane Hansen said in an email to the bank's internal fraud investigators he had been "stupid and ignorant".
"There are no excuses. These were stupid, naive decisions made in the heat of the battle with consequences I will now have to live with for the rest of my life," Mr Hansen stated.
Accountant Robert Zaia has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He confirmed he had provided account balances of CBA clients to Zaia's accountancy firm Zaia, Arthur and Associates, without the clients' knowledge. Zaia, 53, and Jordanou, 60, used the information to siphon funds or make transfers between accounts.
"I honestly thought I was making the process simple and easy for my clients by supplying this information to their accountant. I now understand how vulnerable this makes the CBA," Mr Hansen stated.
He also admitted to maintaining contact with Jordanou and Zaia, despite a ban imposed by senior management, which was aware of their scamming from 2007 but only reported the matter to police in 2011.
In an extraordinary probity failing, the CBA paid commissions to Jordanou and Zaia at the same time it had red flagged them as fraud risks on its internal security system called "Hunter".
Mr Hansen also implicated Brendan Epps, another mobile lender at the Box Hill branch, who was previously described in court as a "conduit" and an "inside man" for Jordanou and Zaia.
"The only issue that I was aware of was the Brendan Epps deal whereby the CBA wrote off around $270,000."
Mr Epps died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 2007. Jordanou was a pallbearer at his funeral, but cultivated other relationships with staff at the Box Hill branch.
"The Commonwealth Bank, through Epps and others, were very much party to these deceptions," Jordanou's barrister, Patrick Tehan, QC, told the court in June.
Mr Hansen did not respond to emails or phone calls from Fairfax Media, but Mr Hansen's LinkedIn profile reveals he began a new role with the Bank of Melbourne in 2011. He now holds the position of lending development manager with BOM.
Judge Lacava took a swipe at the CBA's probity failings on Thursday.
"Their level of due diligence was negligble, if not non-existent," he said.
“A simple phone call from the CBA to verify the authenticity of the information supplied – for example, to the Australian Taxation Office – could have exposed the fraud, but that was never done.”
Jim and Deb Barker, from Mildura, were victims of fraudsters Bill Jordanou and Robert Zaia.
The hefty prison sentences for Jordanou and Zaia are of little consolation to their victims.
CBA's Jessica Rogers said on Thursday the bank welcomed the men being jailed.
"When the Commonwealth Bank became aware of the fraud allegations, we reported them to the Victoria Police and actively assisted the police with their investigation.
"Investigations found no evidence of collusion or knowing involvement by bank staff in the highly complex and sophisticated fraud committed by Bill Jordanou, Robert Zaia, and Scott Arthur.
"We understand the distress involved for those customers who were the victim of fraud at the hands of Mr Jordanou, Mr Zaia and Mr Arthur. For confidentiality reasons, we cannot comment on specific customer circumstances."
Two of the fraud's victims, Mildura plasterer Jim Barker and wife Debbie, now live with their son.
The couple were first to raise the alarm in 2007, when they reported to the CBA's fraud investigation unit that a document that stated Mr Barker's annual salary was $343,000 had been forged with the complicity of bank staff to obtain a loan of $1.5 million. At the time, Mr Barker earned about $80,000 and was unable to service the loan.
Builder Paul Karaminovski lost his family home in Port Melbourne, a townhouse owned by his son and more than $2 million.
Giulia Mandarino lost her home in Port Melbourne.
And Giulia Mandarino now lives in a boarding house after losing her Port Melbourne home.
She took out a $200,000 loan at a meeting with Jordanou in March 2006, before the the loan was increased to $450,000 without her consent.
Last month, Jordanou spent his 60th birthday in protective custody. He must serve nine years before he is eligible for parole. Zaia must serve a minimum sentence of seven and a half years in prison.
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