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Sydney stockbroker Oliver Curtis jailed for insider trading

ABC News logo ABC News 24/06/2016

Stockbroker Oliver Curtis with his wife Roxy Jacenko. © AAP Image/Joel Carrett Stockbroker Oliver Curtis with his wife Roxy Jacenko. Sydney stockbroker Oliver Curtis has been jailed for two years after an insider trading scam hatched with his then best friend made them more than $1.4 million in illegal profits.

Curtis, 30, was found guilty of conspiring to commit insider trading on 45 separate occasions, earlier this month.

The trial heard how he shared in illegal profits from insider trading using confidential information between May 2007 and June 2008.

Prosecutors had pushed for a five-year prison term, arguing his crimes were a "form of cheating".

However, New South Wales Supreme Court Justice Lucy McCallum handed down a minimum term of one year, saying a prison sentence would provide "real bite" as a deterrent to white-collar crimes.

Justice McCallum said white-collar crime was a serious offence and evidence in the case satisfied her that a custodial sentence was appropriate.

The father of two then embraced his wife, PR executive Roxy Jacenko, before being led from the court by guards.

'Best friends' hatched illegal plan to buy and sell shares

During the trial, the court heard Curtis received tip-offs from his former best friend, John Hartman.

Prosecutors said Hartman, who worked for Orion Asset Management, told Curtis when to buy and sell "contracts for difference" and at what price, using information not available to the public.

Curtis's defence said Hartman played a much larger role in the offending than he did, determining when it started and when it finished.

But in her decision, Justice McCallum said she accepted both men came up with the plan together.

"Mr Curtis also provided the funds to begin the trading."

Curtis 'knew source of information he received'

But Justice Callum also accepted Mr Hartman "was the insider" and there was "no breach of trust" by Mr Curtis.

"His culpability [Curtis] is less on that account," Justice McCallum said.

"But it must be accepted, as submitted by the crown, that he knew the source of the information he was to receive."

The trial heard Hartman and Curtis grew up in neighbouring homes in Mosman, on Sydney's north shore, and went to school together.

Hartman told the court the pair were "best friends", and described how they hatched a plan in 2007 to use Hartman's position at Orion to profit from buying and selling shares.

He has previously said that the pair saw the offending as "a bit of a game" and a way to make money.

Prosecutors had argued that insider trading was not a victimless crime.

They said Curtis had seen an opportunity and run with it.

Friends shared $3000-a-week Bondi apartment

He was himself jailed in 2010 and served a 15-month prison sentence for insider trading and related offences.

At the time of the trades, they were sharing a $3,000-per-week Bondi apartment, allegedly funded by the proceeds of the transactions.

Jurors heard Hartman was forbidden from trading Australian shares because of his role at Orion.

The firm had $6 billion in funds under management, including on behalf of super funds.

Trades were made in the name of Curtis's company, Encounter Investments, through CMC Markets.

The jury was told that in June 2007, Curtis bought Hartman a $60,000 Mini Cooper, followed by a $20,000 Ducati motorcycle.

The court was told Hartman provided the inside information using a messaging technique called "pinning" on a Blackberry device that Curtis had bought for him.

Nature of offences 'reduces weight given to his good character'

In her sentencing remarks, Justice McCallum noted Curtis had no prior convictions and she took into consideration a number of positive character references that had been submitted to the court.

Former colleagues and family friends had described Curtis as the hardest worker, a role model, and a doting father and husband.

In the submissions it was also said the chances of him reoffending were zero.

But Justice McCallum said the bearing she could give to this evidence in her sentencing decision was limited.

"The fact that Mr Curtis's offending occurred over an extended period of time, involving many deliberate decisions... [This] reduces the weight that can be given to his good character," she said.

Sentences should be harsher, ASIC says

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) said the punishments for white-collar crime should be more severe.

ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft agreed with Justice MacCallum's comments in court about white-collar criminals often evading prosecution compared to blue-collar crime.

"I would actually make it harsher because they are informed," he said "But I think if we as a community could at least get to the level where they're treated equally, that would be a good start."

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