New trial ordered for Bond after 'set-up' allegation

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The Independent Online
JUST 13 weeks after he was sent to prison for two-and-a-half years, Alan Bond was released from a Perth prison farm yesterday when an appeal court quashed his conviction for dishonesty and ordered a new trial.

The fallen Australian tycoon, who symbolised the fast-money business style of the 1980s, looked pale and shaken as he was driven from the prison farm near Perth by one of his sons after the court's judgment.

Dressed in a suit and tie, but unshaven and looking considerably thinner from his spell behind bars, Mr Bond, 54, gave a brief, subdued kerb-side press conference at which he appeared to be fighting back tears. He said prison life did not agree with him, and continued: 'This decision supports what I have been saying, that I was innocent of the charge and that the sentence was beyond any reasonable (one that) should have been imposed. I'm now going to spend some time with my family.'

A Perth jury found Mr Bond guilty last May of dishonest concealment over his conduct in an abortive rescue attempt of Rothwells, a Perth merchant bank, after the stock market crash of 1987. Rothwells, which has since collapsed, was owned by Laurie Connell, another prominent Perth business figure of the Eighties, and a former business associate of Mr Bond. Mr Connell himself is facing more than 70 charges over Rothwells.

Mr Bond's conviction and sentencing brought to a spectacular end the career of the tycoon who once ran a Adollars 10bn ( pounds 3.9bn) brewing, media and mining empire.

He was declared bankrupt last April, with personal debts of more than Adollars 280m, but continued, characteristically, to explore every legal avenue by launching an action against his conviction in the Western Australian Court of Criminal Appeal. His success in that action yesterday centred on sensational evidence at the appeal hearing from Max Healy, a bankrupt Perth builder.

Mr Healy told the three appeal court judges last month that Mr Connell had lied when he gave evidence against Mr Bond at the original trial because he wanted Mr Bond, and as many other businessmen as possible, to be convicted over the collapsed Rothwells bank.

Mr Healy told Mr Bond's appeal hearing that Mr Connell had privately indicated to him his intention to 'set up' Mr Bond. He said he had not come forward earlier with his claims because of fears for himself and his family. Mr Bond himself claimed he only heard of these allegations when Mr Healy wrote to him in prison.

In their judgment yesterday, two of the three appeal court judges said Mr Healy's evidence would have been enough to raise reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors at the Bond trial.

(Photograph omitted)

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