‘Sir Cowley’ jailed for three years for banking scam
STANDING in the prisoner's dock on the verge of being jailed, Robert Alexander Cowley had a chance to acknowledge the multi-million dollar international banking scam he ran using a computer in his Sunshine Coast home.
Instead the 73-year-old insisted he had "learnt a big lesson being in prison" before declaring his belief he did nothing wrong when he induced a woman to pay US$250,000 into a German bank just after the Global Financial Crisis.
"It's a horrifying thought to be going back but I want the court to know that I believe what we did at the time was correct," he said.
"The jury's shown otherwise and I accept that judgment.
"I do have remorse in the sense if people are hurt for anything that happened."
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 around the world and offered services such as capital raising.
A jury earlier this month found Cowley guilty of fraud, finding he used at least four pseudonyms - to make his business appear bigger and more credible than it was - as part of an elaborate advanced fee scam.
Frances Fernandez, who represented Breez Finance and a group of Queensland-based cooperative housing societies, was searching for a wholesale credit line so their members could buy, build or refinance their properties.
The US$250,000 she paid to Investment Suisse was supposed to be returned if the multi-million dollar credit line could not be secured.
Judge Ian Dearden sentenced Cowley on Thursday to three and a half years, suspended after he has served 15 months.
He said the money "was always going to be lost" and noted a previous judge's summation Cowley was a swindler.
"I have the view this was an out and out fraud and it was from the start," he said.
"It's clear you ... were running a long game.
"The evidence shows a very significant sophistication in dealing with Ms Fernandez.
"It must have been an enormous embarrassment for her. She fell for your scam hook, line and sinker."
Judge Dearden said Cowley had tried to scam another $100,000 from Ms Fernandez but "thankfully common sense prevailed and that further money wasn't provided".
Cowley had previously been sentenced after another trial to three years jail, suspended after he had served 18 months, for cheating a man out of 100,000 euros, about A$200,000.
He told that man he would increase his capital and receive a 70% return and promised the investment back if the return did not eventuate.
Crown prosecutor Clayton Wallis said that fraud involved similar behaviour - use of pseudonyms and a false promise to repay the money if the financial agreement did not materialise.
"This was an advanced fee scam. The money comes in and almost straight away it goes out," he said.
"He never intended, in my submission, to come good with his promises.
"It was certainly a business transaction, in inverted commas, that had no legitimacy behind it.
"It was elaborate - the London meetings, the use of pseudonyms, emails .... all of these things showed it was an elaborate scheme."
Barrister Josh Fenton said Cowley had four children but his daughter in Melbourne, where he lived upon his release from jail until this trial, was the only one still in Australia.
He said Cowley had a heart disorder, a spinal issue and other ailments associated with old age that made prison difficult but noted there were no major issues when he was jailed at Woodford during the other fraud sentence. - ARM NEWSDESK