How bank employee’s lavish life unravelled
A once high-ranking NAB employee and the woman who allegedly funnelled millions of dollars in kickbacks into her accounts referred to each other as "bestie" and "sister from another mother".
Court documents allege that Rosemary Rogers, the Chief of Staff to the NAB CEO, formed an "ongoing agreement" with Helen Rosamond to favour her events company the Human Group with work for the bank.
In return Ms Rosamond allegedly organised small gifts for Rogers like a $1,600 hotel room at Melbourne's Crown Casino in 2013.
A year later this grew into an eight-person, $620,000 US holiday for Rogers' family, court documents allege.
Police allege Rogers then signed off on inflated invoices "without scrutiny" submitted by the events contractor and personally gained about $5.5m in eye-watering gifts including a car, a boat and overseas holidays.
During Rogers' reign as chief of staff to former NAB boss Andrew Thorburn, which ended in December 2017, the bank paid Human Group more than $44 million in revenue - 97 per cent of all its business.
"During this time, the two became extremely close and were in nearly daily contact, also meeting for lunch every few weeks even though Rogers was based in Melbourne and Rosamond lived in Sydney," agreed facts tendered to court state.
Ms Rosamond, who denies all allegations against her, is also alleged to have bought Rogers holidays to Europe and Fiji, given her a luxury BMW and gave her $1.5 million to buy a trophy home in Melbourne's Williamstown.
It is alleged the two got so close that Ms Rosamond changed her will in 2015 to instruct that 5 per cent of her estate should go to Rogers in the event of her death.
The staggering detail of Rogers' deception of her employer of 22 years can be revealed as she faces jail time after pleading guilty to a string of charges including corruptly receiving a benefit and obtaining a financial gain by deception.
Downing Centre District Court was told at a sentence hearing on Monday that she had the personal authority to approve invoices of up to $20 million and showed "complete and utter recklessness" in her corrupt activities.
The court heard the 45-year-old never knew the woman she was allegedly in cahoots with, Ms Rosamond, was allegedly "loading up" by skimming millions of dollars for herself.
Ms Rosamond, 44, has pleaded not guilty to more than 70 offences and will fight her charges at an estimated four-month trial in 2021.
Rogers' barrister Mark Tedeschi QC said the Melbourne woman believed Ms Rosamond's only benefit from the scheme was an agreement for the renewal of lucrative contracts she held with the bank.
He alleged his client was just "pushing a button" to approve the former Human Group director's invoices, which he said contained such little detail there was cause for "disbelief" an organisation like NAB would pay them out.
"She assumed that the only bogus part of it was (inflating costs) to cover for her own benefit," he said. "She didn't know Ms Rosamond was loading up for her own benefit.
"She wasn't making any checks, she was just pushing the button to whatever was coming through."
The scheme began to crumble in December 2017 when an anonymous whistleblower tipped off the board at the powerful bank, sending identical letters claiming "Rose" had been receiving gifts and cash from Ms Rosamond.
On April 10, 2018, police raided Ms Rosamond's Potts Point home, discovering a cheque in her safe for $1.5 million that was made out by Rogers.
In an intercepted phone call that same day Rogers asked Ms Rosamond "what the f**k are we going to do?".
"Have you seen the news? I'm all over it," Ms Rosamond said.
Rogers replied: "Whatever happens we stay connected, whatever they say."
Mr Tedeschi claimed there was a "degree of grooming" in Ms Rosamond's relationship with Rogers, although she was a "willing participant" in the deception of her employer.
Rogers' involvement was "subtle" at the start but evolved to the point she knew she could ask for "whatever she wanted", he said, and might have been driven by stress, greed and a sense of entitlement.
Chief among their money-spinners was a $2.2 million invoice dubbed "Project Eagle", which purported to be costs for the on-boarding of ex-NSW Premier Mike Baird who had rejoined NAB in 2017.
The Human Group had little to no involvement in Mr Baird's courtship, but was paid the multimillion-dollar request after Rogers forwarded it to NAB's finance partner Jo Cushing.
"I can already hear you screaming but this invoice needs to be paid by us, it is a last minute agreement I will explain tomorrow," she wrote.
Mr Baird and Ms Cushing are not accused of wrongdoing.
Crown prosecutor Sally Traynor said the simplicity of the invoices allegedly submitted by Ms Rosamond made it "near impossible" to detect the inflated figures in the payments Rogers was approving.
Ms Traynor said "Project Eagle" was a "sophisticated deception" designed to funnel money to Rogers to buy her new home.
"She did it with breathtaking ease to obtain that money, and it was done with the sole purpose of buying her dream house," she said.
That showed the "complete and utter recklessness as to what she was approving", Ms Traynor said.
Rogers' years of brazen deceptions showed complete disregard to NAB and amounted to a significant abuse of the trust she held as a high-level employee, she said.
Mr Tedeschi told the court the mother of two still could not explain exactly why she went down that path, but despite the millions she stole, her actions were not in the worst category.
"It's not as if she was aware she was destroying anybody's lives," he said.
The court heard she has since paid back more than $4 million to the NSW Crime Commission and intends to give evidence at Ms Rosamond's trial.
Rogers is on bail and will spend Christmas with her family in Victoria before she is sentenced on January 24, 2021.
Originally published as How bank employee's lavish life unravelled