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A-G signed off on immunity for three solicitors facing fraud charges, court told

Queensland’s Attorney-General approved an agreement to grant indemnity to three Brisbane solicitors facing criminal charges in return for evidence against high-profile former criminal lawyer Adam Magill, a court has been told.

Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Peter Roddick today told the Brisbane Magistrates Court he had been responsible for making an application for indemnity against prosecution for three criminal lawyers in return for their assistance in an ongoing CCC investigation, but that the final decision to grant immunity was made by the Attorney-General and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The evidence came during the second day of a committal hearing for former veteran police officer and now struck-off criminal lawyer Adam Raydon Magill, 49, and his firm’s former clients, Piet ‘Bruce’ Luan Ta and brother Lam ‘Chop’ Quoc Ta.

The trio are each charged with one count of money laundering between May 2013 and April 2017 and aggravated fraud against Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) between November 2013 and July 2016.

Magill is also charged with an additional count of fraud against LAQ between May and December 2015, aggravated fraud against his former firm between January 2011 and April 2017, and fraudulent falsification of records between August and November 2016.

Criminal solicitors Cory Cullen, Nathan Hounsell and Mitchell Cunningham yesterday testified that they had all been charged with fraud during in 18-month CCC investigation into the now defunct criminal law firm, Lawler Magill.

However, the trio, who now head up Hounsell Cunningham Criminal Defence Lawyers and Cullen Lawyers, all testified that the CCC granted them indemnity from prosecution on one count each of fraud – which have since formally been dropped – in return for assistance in the CCC investigation into alleged money laundering by the firm and others.

Sergeant Roddick, under cross-examination by Lincoln Crowley QC (for Magill), today testified that Cullen, Hounsell and Cunningham were granted immunity from prosecution on charges of fraud for “taking cash from clients and not putting it into the (Lawler Magill firm’s) trust account”.

The court was told that, while the CCC made the application for immunity on behalf of the trio, the final sign-off to grant indemnity had to be approved by Queensland’s Attorney-General.

“I submitted the application (for indemnity) to the DPP (Office of Director of Public Prosecutions),” he said. “The process was for me to make the application … (and) that goes to the DPP and the Attorney-General (for approval). Once indemnity was granted the charges (against Cullen, Hounsell and Cunningham) were discontinued.”

The court has so far heard evidence that Lawler Magill Lawyers had regularly accepted cash from criminal law clients at numerous and varied locations, such as court, in social and informal settings, at the firm’s Brisbane office and after providing legal services.

When asked by Mr Crowley if he had ever received cash payments when returning to the firm with fees paid to him as a reward for “good work” or a “job well done”, Mr Cullen on Wednesday replied: “I did.”

Mr Cullen said that, before the CCC raided the Lawler Magill offices in April 2017, he had witnessed cash given by clients, families or associates for services provided being shared among the firm’s then partners, fellow practitioners and staff.

However, former firm partner Neil Lawler today testified he had never been aware of, or would have condoned, any of the firm’s practitioners or staff taking or being paid so-called “cash bonuses”.

Mr Lawler, who no longer holds a certificate to practise as a solicitor, denied any suggestion cash payments were part of any of his former employees’ work agreements.

“I do not remember any bonus payments and I don’t remember any being paid,” Mr Lawler said. “They had to be performing, but as far as bonus payments, I would not think so.”

He admitted discrepancies had been discovered internally in the firm accounts in 2017.

“There were payments made that were not authorised,” Mr Lawler said. 

The court was told both Lawler and Magill lodged a complaint to police against former administration officer Wendy Pond over missing money.

Mr Lawler testified money had been paid directly into her bank account. 

“I think it was $150,000 that we came up with. The more you looked, the worse it got.”

However, the staffer – who has given evidence against Magill – was not charged.

“I was advised (by Adam Magill) they were not going to prosecute. I was dumbfounded,” Mr Lawler said.

“Adam (said he) had been told she was too vital a witness to the (CCC). I don’t know how that’s relevant – nothing ever happened.”

Sergeant Roddick, during a fiery exchange with Magill’s counsel, Mr Crowley, said that at no time during the CCC investigation had pressure been placed on Brisbane’s Criminal Investigation Branch to not investigate or prosecute Ms Pond.

Sergeant Roddick also denied defence assertions he had told police it “was not in the public interest” to investigate Ms Pond.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Janelle Brassington adjourned the hearing for mention in the Brisbane Magistrate’s Court 18 on 27 September.

The adjournment was granted to allow time for the preparation of a financial report to be provided to the court and parties involved in the proceedings.

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