Former Bill Express executive jailed

Former Bill Express executive Peter Couper is heading to jail after the Victorian Court of Appeal found his initial suspended sentence was "manifestly inadequate".

Former Bill Express executive Peter Couper is heading to jail after the Victorian Court of Appeal found his initial suspended sentence was "manifestly inadequate".

In sentencing Couper to two months' jail, the appeal judges also agreed with the public prosecutor that good character of so-called white-collar criminals should have less significance in sentencing because it is the very factor that provides them with positions of trust and responsibility.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed Justice Liz Gaynor's decision in June 2012 to give Couper a 21-month suspended sentence and fine him $10,000.

Couper was the chief financial officer of the On Q Group Limited, the parent company of Bill Express Limited. He has pleaded guilty to four charges, including falsifying accounts, giving misleading information to an auditor and giving misleading information under oath during a public examination by the corporate watchdog.

While he was in charge of On Q's accounts, Couper falsified records to show Bill Express recorded profits of $3.5 million from buying and selling Simix shares during two half-year periods spanning 2007 and 2008. In fact, no Simix shares were traded.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission deputy chairman Belinda Gibson said lying to the regulator would not be tolerated and the regulator would "seek jail terms in appropriate cases".

"This judgment from the Victorian Court of Appeal reinforces the importance of the market not being misled and the very serious consequences for company officers who breach their obligations under the Corporations Act and who then mislead ASIC," she said.

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