Slater and Gordon and the $67,772.00 in funds provided by the Australian Workers' Union Workplace Reform Association to buy a house in Blewitt's name
A great deal turns on this question - who knew that the AWU Workplace Reform Association was the source of the $67,722.30 used by Slater and Gordon to finalise the Blewitt/Wilson purchase of 1/85 Kerr Street, Fitzroy?
To summarise Slater and Gordon's statements to date, the money appeared in their Trust Account on 22 March, 1993 and Slater and Gordon recorded the source of the money as Ralph Blewitt. Slater and Gordon states that it does not know where Blewitt got the money from.
On 8 April, 2013, James Higgins of Slater and Gordon wrote to Ralph Blewitt in answer to his request for a copy of the Slater and Gordon Trust Account Receipt:
Under the rules and laws applying to Trust Account receipts they must be kept for 7 years. Nevertheless we requested our Matter Accounts group search for receipts from 1993 related to this matter. Unfortunately it appears the firm largely no longer holds trust account receipts for the early 1990's given the expiration of time. We do enclose a copy of our Trust Account ledgers which we have previously provided to your lawyers. You will note that the ledger reflects that the transactions you have inquired about involved a Direct Deposit in your name. You are aware you deposited those funds at a Commonwealth Bank Branch in Western Australia. As previously advised to your lawyers there is no reference in your conveyance or mortgage file concerning where you sourced those funds. The other transaction you inquire about concerned a personal cheque in the name of R E & J A Blewitt.You will note that these ledgers are in fact copies of the actual ledger that was printed off for the file on 13 July 1994 prior to any controversy concerning this conveyance. I am informed that this was likely to be for the purposes of archiving the file.
So Slater and Gordon refer here to a direct deposit - a deposit made directly to the Slater and Gordon Trust Account. They also say to Blewitt that the transaction in their ledger is recorded to reflect that it "involved a direct deposit in your name".
The name of the Matter was certainly Ralph Blewitt. The drawer of the cheque and source of the funds was the AWU Workplace Reform Association.
On 18 March, 1993, Slater and Gordon received the details of what monies were required to effect settlement, thus how much the purchaser Blewitt would be required to pay after the deposit and monies advanced by mortgage were deducted. Slater and Gordon wrote this letter to Ralph Blewitt stating a further $67,772.30 was required by the following day.
That letter could not have been mailed in time. Not one letter on the file is sent to Blewitt until this date. Wilson had been the recipient of other letters. Wilson was also apparently present at Slater and Gordon on 18 March, 1993 to sign other documents on Blewitt's behalf.
This letter to Wilson confirms the provision of the mortgage funding and asks for certain undertakings including a statutory declaration. It's only addressed to Wilson and is dated 17 March. Here's the header - you can find all of these documents in the conveyance file here.
Wilson apparently attended on 18 March, he's dated signing documents and he swears a statutory declaration in front of Olive Brosnahan attached to the above letter.
I think it's reasonable to presume that someone phoned Blewitt on 18 March, 1993 to advise him as to the amount calculated to be required to complete settlement.
I know that Blewitt was present at a branch of the Commonwealth Bank in Perth on 18 March, 1993.
This cheque was written out in Blewitt's handwriting. It is dated 18 March, 1993. It was provided to Ian Cambridge in answer to a subpoena issued by the Australian Industrial Relations Court to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in matter 2082/96. This is the cheque that the Commonwealth Bank honoured, it is a good and valid order for the transfer of money from the account of the Australian Workers' Union Workplace Reform Association to the Trust Account of Slater and Gordon solicitors. I know of no other intermediating order associated with this transfer of money, for example an order for the conversion of this cheque into a bank cheque prior to its deposit.
Slater and Gordon asked for a Bank Cheque or a telegraphic transfer of the money. There is no evidence of a bank cheque being provided. There is no evidence of Blewitt ordering a telegraphic transfer of money to Slater and Gordon. The evidence before us is of a normal cheque on the account of the AWU Workplace Reform Association, made out to the Slater and Gordon Trust Account.
Slater and Gordon recognised the arrival of the cleared funds in its Trust Account on 22 March, 1993. Slater and Gordon operates under the strict provisions associated with accurately recording the date of deposits of money held by it on trust. We can assume that the 22 March date recording the arrival of cleared funds is an accurate date. That is 4 days after we know Blewitt deposited a cheque directly to the Slater and Gordon Trust Fund Account - a deposit he says he made in the normal way, that is attend the branch, fill out a deposit slip and deposit the cheque.
4 days for a speedy clearance in 1993 for a cheque drawn on an account held at the same bank, the CBA, seems pretty par for the course too.
Here is the Slater and Gordon Trust Account General Ledger recording the deposit.
Note the date, 22 March, 1993 - and the note next to it "DDep". It's not telegraphic transfer, it's DDep. The name "Mr Ralph Blewitt" is recorded in the field in which the drawer of the cheque is recorded in every other entry on this Ledger. In the case of funds actually deposited from Blewitt's account, the name RE & JA Blewitt is recorded.
I have searched the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Bank and other sources for a definition in accounting terms of the phrase Direct Deposit. It does not appear as a defined term on those Australian sites and it's not a term apparently recognised as connoting special meaning under the Generally Accepted Accounting Practice in this country. The website deposits.org does give a specific definition for the term "Direct Deposit":
Direct DepositDirect Deposit Meaning:
In deposit terminology, the term Direct Deposit refers to the deposit of money made into a bank account directly from an employer to an employee. Direct Deposit also includes tax refunds.
Slater & Gordon managing director Andrew Grech has confirmed Ms Gillard ''acted directly'' in the conveyancing work on the property purchase. The confirmation came in documents lodged with the Australian Press Council in support of a complaint against Fairfax newspapers and this journalist over reporting of the firm's role in the Australian Workers Union ''slush fund'' scandal.
Slater and Gordon now needs to answer these questions.
What is Slater and Gordon's understanding of the meaning of the term "DDep" used in its Trust Account Ledger in relation to its recorded receipt of $67,722.30 in its Trust Account on 22 March, 1993?
What does Slater and Gordon's bank statement show as the source of these funds?
What advice did Slater and Gordon receive to suggest that "Mr Ralph Blewitt" was the source of the $67,722.30?
What does Slater and Gordon now believe to be the real source of that money? Has Slater and Gordon's Trust Account Ledger been updated to reflect that understanding? Does Slater and Gordon continue to record that Ralph Blewitt is the genuine source of those funds?
Slater and Gordon will now be aware that the actual source of the funds processed through its Trust Account and converted into Real Property in that transaction was the AWU Workplace Reform Association, an entity incorporated pursuant to an Application to the WA Corporate Affairs Commissioner prepared by your then salaried partner Julia Eileen Gillard. The recorded principal of the entity was Ralph Blewitt, but by all accounts the person who instructed your partner was her defacto partner Bruce Morton WILSON. Given the conflict of interest your partner had in her obligations to your client the AWU and her apparent work in favouring her defacto Bruce Wilson, what steps has Slater and Gordon taken to report what appears to be a money laundering exercise involving its Trust Account?
Finally, settlement was effected by Slater and Gordon - it wrote to Bruce Wilson to advise him - just as it had written to him to advise him of his purchase of the property, with the name recorded on the title being Ralph Blewitt. Here are the excerpts of a few letters from the file.
Slater and Gordon was told on 15 February that it was nominated at the auction on 13 Feb as the purchaser's solicitors, the real estate agent's note said we note that Blewitt's name will be the official purchaser, but you Slater and Gordon should check yourself. Olive Brosnahan then spent that week of 15-19 February chasing up a copy of the Power of Attorney that her own firm purported to have created on 4 February and which would be on the firm's file for that work if there was one. I think it's significant that Olive wrote this letter to Wilson only on 22 February, 1993 after seeing the Power of Attorney that gave legal effect to the contract:
Olive Brosnahan had written to Wilson before acknowledging that the firm was acting in the sale. Gillard was at the auction and a part of the sale process includes the purchaser receiving a copy of the Contract for Sale. Slater and Gordon then had a copy of the contract on 15 February. What Slater and Gordon had not received and had been chasing is a certified copy or an original of the Power of Attorney that gave effect to the contract. That's a bit strange, given that Slater and Gordon itself created and witnessed the signing of the Power of Attorney on 4 February, 1993. But as the file shows, Olive Brosnahan didn't search for an internal file with a copy of the POA - she chased the Real Estate Agent because that is where she was told she'd get the document.
On 22 February, Olive Brosnahan sent this letter to the real estate agent selling the property.
Finally, here's the acknowledgement that the purchase was completed. Sent to Wilson!