David Stuart

'Sir Cowley' faces trial for alleged banking scam

A JURY has been tasked to decide whether a 73-year-old man ran an international banking scam involving emails from at least four alleged pseudonyms using a computer in his Sunshine Coast home.

Robert Alexander Cowley is accused of inducing a woman to pay US$250,000 into a German bank so she could secure a multi-million dollar credit line for a group of Queensland-based co-operative housing societies just after the Global Financial Crisis.

He is facing a trial in Brisbane District Court after pleading not guilty to fraud between July 9, 2009, and October 14, 2010.

In her opening address, Crown prosecutor Clare Hurley urged the jury not to let terms such as offshore banking structures, international merchant banking groups and billions of dollars worth of credit lines bamboozle them.

She said Mr Cowley, also known as Sir Cowley or the Right Honourable Mr Cowley, was the founder and chairman of Investment Suisse.

The business purported to have offices in Europe, Asia and other international destinations, including London, and offered services such as capital raising.

Ms Hurley said Frances Fernandez, who represented Breez and other cooperative housing societies, was searching for a wholesale credit line so their members could buy, build or refinance their properties.

She said Ms Fernandez met Mr Cowley in Brisbane and in London and she received numerous emails from people allegedly in the compliance department at Investment Suisse.

"The Crown case ... is that Mr Cowley was the architect, or at least one of the architects, of a scheme of drafting, authoring and forwarding correspondence ... from these aliases, all the while hiding behind the veil of a computer screen ... in his Sunshine Coast home," she said.

Ms Hurley said Ms Fernandez only provided the $250,000 advance fee once Investment Suisse finally agreed to include a safety clause to protect the money if the sought credit service was not delivered.

"The finance world is perhaps something many of us have not had any or little experience in," Ms Hurley said.

"But ... don't let that or any of these terms distract you.

"The Crown case is that this is a standard advance fee or charge fraud scam.

"Such a scam was perpetrated, the Crown says, by Robert Alexander Cowley.

"It was perpetrated, on the Crown case, when he ultimately induced Ms Fernandez, and those she was representing, to deliver a sum of US$250,000 in currency to the Commerzbank in Germany.

"She delivered that based on dishonest representations (Mr Cowley) made."

Ms Hurley said police searched Mr Cowley's home in May 2012 and found a computer with digital signatures from various people purporting to be compliance officers for his company.

She said this was not "just a bad business deal", that Ms Fernandez would not have invested money if she had "realised these people don't exist".

The trial continues. - ARM NEWSDESK

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