Helen Rosamond: How a Sydney woman’s scam on NAB unravelled Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content Loading 3rd party ad content

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By Michaela Whitbourn

Helen Rosamond’s lavish 40th birthday party in 2015 attracted some of the wealthiest revellers in Sydney. By Christmas 2017, an anonymous whistleblower letter had brought her money-making scam unstuck.

This week, a NSW District Court jury found the Sydney businesswoman guilty of 90 charges for her part in orchestrating a multimillion-dollar fraud on the National Australia Bank and paying kickbacks to a bank staffer.

Helen Rosamond leaves the District Court in Sydney on Wednesday.

Helen Rosamond leaves the District Court in Sydney on Wednesday.Credit:James Alcock

The charismatic and well-coiffed owner of North Sydney-based event management company Human Group billed the bank for extravagant personal expenses between 2013 and 2017, including gifts for the senior staffer rubber-stamping her inflated invoices. Human Group had organised a series of events for the bank including leadership retreats.

Rosemary Rogers, chief of staff to former NAB chief executives Cameron Clyne and Andrew Thorburn, was Rosamond’s woman on the inside. A trusted and long-time bank employee, Rogers was authorised to approve invoices worth up to $20 million.

Former senior NAB staffer Rosemary Rogers told the court she became “dependent” on Helen Rosamond.

Former senior NAB staffer Rosemary Rogers told the court she became “dependent” on Helen Rosamond.Credit:Sam Mooy

Rosamond’s bloated invoices covered $228,747 for an interior designer to furnish her Potts Point terrace, almost $100,000 in rent, $14,358 on catering for her swanky 40th birthday, $372,611 to landscape her former marital home in Mosman and $86,413 for renovations. Thousands more were spent on a US holiday, artworks, renovations on her catamaran and a car for family members.

The jury also found she improperly retained between $2.4 million and $4.9 million in unused funds from NAB that were supposed to be spent on fulfilling contracts, and attempted to obtain a further $3.3 million by issuing a fraudulent invoice to the bank.

Rogers, the star witness in Rosamond’s trial, was sent to jail in 2020 for a minimum of four years and nine months after pleading guilty to a raft of offences including 27 counts of corruptly receiving a benefit from Rosamond. She received a discount for giving evidence against her former benefactor.

The long-time NAB employee received a string of big-ticket gifts totalling $5.6 million, including $1.5 million for a house, a $159,490 European holiday for six people, a $620,000 US holiday for eight including a private jet, a $29,377 holiday to the Saffire Freycinet resort in Tasmania, a $115,000 boat and a $172,000 BMW.

The kickbacks were designed to ensure Human Group’s lucrative contracts with NAB continued and that Rogers waved through Rosamond’s invoices, the jury heard.

Rogers told the court she became dependent on Rosamond and regarded her as a friend and confidant. Text messages shown in court revealed they called each other “bestie” and “sister from another mother”.

Rosamond was “funding a lifestyle that I had”, Rogers said, and it was obvious to her that the bank ultimately picked up the tab for her gifts.

She had indirect discussions with Rosamond about particular purchases, she said, and “Helen would have given it ... a reference to a [NAB] project or something like that, and that’s when I would have known it would be going through the invoices”.

Crown prosecutor Katrina Mackenzie told the jury the arrangement between the pair started small, but “grew and grew” until their “greed, dependence and perhaps arrogance started to contribute to the unravelling of their criminal enterprise and, ultimately, their downfall”.

The Human Group invoices were vague, Mackenzie said, but Rogers knew they at least included her corrupt benefits. “She knew it was fraudulent, and she still approved it,” she said.

Greed, dependence and perhaps arrogance started to contribute to the unravelling of their criminal enterprise and ... their downfall.

Crown prosecutor Katrina Mackenzie

The jury’s lengthy deliberations started on Tuesday last week, with verdicts delivered in tranches on Wednesday and Friday.

The court heard the charges – 60 counts of giving a corrupt benefit and 32 counts of dishonestly obtaining, or attempting to dishonestly obtain, a financial advantage by deception – totalled $15 million. The jury found Rosamond guilty of all but one corrupt benefit and financial advantage charge.

Geoffrey Rosamond with his new wife in August.

Geoffrey Rosamond with his new wife in August.Credit:Dean Sewell

An anonymous whistleblower letter alerted NAB to the arrangement between the duo shortly before Christmas 2017, triggering an internal investigation and, later, police involvement.

Rosamond’s ex-husband, Geoffrey Rosamond, told the jury his then-wife paid for major expenses including the US holiday and landscaping on their home and he was unaware of the source of the funds.

The court heard he was charged in 2015 and subsequently pleaded guilty to recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm on his best friend and assaulting his then-wife after he saw them kissing in the street in the early hours of January 10, 2015.

He denied under questioning by his ex-wife’s barrister that he was the author of the whistleblower letter.

A string of high-profile Sydneysiders gave evidence alongside former NAB chiefs Clyne and Thorburn, including former NSW premier Mike Baird, whose name was used by Rosamond to justify a fraudulent $2.2 million invoice to NAB that she wrongly claimed was related to his recruitment to the bank in 2017.

Social doyenne and heiress Ros Oatley, daughter of the late Hamilton Island owner and billionaire Bob Oatley, told the jury she agreed to let Rosamond use her palatial Mosman home for her 40th birthday soiree. Oatley said she met Rosamond at The Spit in Mosman in about 2013 when the Rosamonds “had a boat adjacent to mine”.

The party featured ice sculptures and was fully catered, Oatley said, and Rosamond supplied the alcohol.

“Fortunately, it wasn’t ours,” she added. Oatley told the court she “hadn’t seen Helen for quite some time because I chose not to”. Clyne told the court Rosamond organised a fundraising dinner for him at his home after he left the bank in 2014.

In a tapped phone call between Rosamond and Rogers in April 2018, after Rosamond’s Potts Point home was raided by police, Rosamond told Rogers, “We just, story, story, story, you know, we um, keep strong.”

Rogers told the court she did not know “the exact meaning” of the phrase but believed it referred to a “story that we were setting up” to disguise their actions. In one call, the pair discussed unflattering press coverage. “At least you look nice,” Rogers assured Rosamond of one photo.

Rosamond’s barrister, Dr Anton Hughes, said in his closing submissions to the jury that Rogers was an “accomplished liar” whose evidence should be rejected. There was “no direct evidence” of an agreement between the pair, he said.

But Mackenzie said the Crown held Rogers out “as a witness of truth”. The jury agreed with that assessment.

Rosamond remains on bail. Judge Robert Sutherland will hear a detention application by the Crown on Monday ahead of her sentencing later this year.

With Georgina Mitchell

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