Don\’t drop charges through sympathy, says Pratt

Ailing industrialist Richard Pratt does not want criminal charges dropped because he\’s dying, but because he believes he\’s innocent, his lawyer says.

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The 74-year-old cardboard king and philanthropist is close to death from prostate cancer and has been surrounded by family and friends at his mansion, Raheen, in Melbourne\’s eastern suburbs.

Despite his illness, Mr Pratt is facing criminal charges of giving false or misleading evidence to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over allegations of price fixing.

Largest corporate fine

This followed an investigation by the ACCC which led to the Visy chief admitting his cardboard box business had operated a cartel with rival Amcor and he was fined $36 million – the biggest ever corporate fine in Australia.

The Federal Court is still deciding whether evidence Mr Pratt gave in the 2007 civil case can be used in a criminal trial against him.

Mr Pratt\’s lawyer Leon Zwier said they were now waiting to see what evidence would be admitted or excluded but added Mr Pratt did not want the criminal charges to be dropped out of sympathy.

“Richard Pratt has always maintained the charges should never have been brought in the first place. Obviously Richard Pratt wants to clear his name and nothing more than that,” Mr Zwier told ABC Radio.

Pratt proclaims innocence

“We are not calling for the charges to be dropped because of Richard\’s ill health. Richard Pratt does not want these charges dropped on the grounds of ill health.

“Richard Pratt would be happy if the DPP (Department of Public Prosecutions) or the ACCC wish to withdraw the charges because they\’ve come to the view that they should never have been laid in the first place.

“Mr Pratt has always taken the view that he\’s innocent of these charges.”

Mr Zwier said if the charges were not withdrawn, his client wanted the case to proceed quickly so he could clear his name before it was too late.

Meanwhile, Sam Lipski, chief executive officer of the Pratt Foundation, agreed with trucking magnate Lindsay Fox that the ACCC hearings and accusations made against Mr Pratt had contributed to his illness.

Samuel \’betrayed Pratt\’

The view that Mr Pratt had been betrayed by ACCC head Graeme Samuel was commonly held among the business community and Mr Pratt\’s friends, Mr Lipski told ABC Radio.

“It\’s a view that may not be personalised, but has to do with the unfairness and in the injustice of what they see Richard having been put through,” he said.

Mr Pratt made his mark on the world by building up his business on his own, he said.

“I think having to battle all this in this era of his life when he should have had only great things to look forward to, it\’s a terrible blow, terrible blow.”