Ray's sentencing took place on Friday, April 15, 2005.
In the month or so between Ray's hearing and his sentencing a lot happened, to me at any rate. For one thing, I found out for myself the circumstances that had determined the collapse of HIH. It was quite bizarre. I never expected, nor felt I needed to know, the intricacies of what led to the crumbling of the once mighty insurance empire. This wasn't because the collapse meant nothing to me. Indeed, I too had been affected by it. At the time HIH fell, Ange and I were being sued by a guy who broke his leg in a wrestling class (see that story here) and we found ourselves uninsured and facing possible bankruptcy.
For Ray's sake also, I had tried to educate myself on the situation, reading the papers and working my way through one enormous book written on the collapse of HIH. I knew the key to the collapse had been HIH's purchase of FAI. They had paid far too much for it, apparently unaware of some significant liabilities that for some reason didn't come to light until after FAI had been sold. Even so, my interest was more in the man, Ray Williams, than in his business.
Then I stumbled upon the truth quite fortuitously. It came about because a friend of mine, totally unrelated to Ray, had been associated with another major player in the HIH drama. This friend phoned me up one day and told me this key player had been looking for a priest to confess to. I have to keep it vague like this, as I'm told that even now, this person or others involved in the drama could still use any clear statements I make not only to sue me but to get themselves acquitted if they are ever brought to trial. I don't know whether this would really happen or not, but I have so little faith in our legal system, I have no desire to put the matter to the test.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I didn't personally take the confession, but I did find out what happened. Let's just say when HIH bought FAI, things had been deliberately covered up and money had changed hands. One of the key players financed the cover-up, another brokered the deal and Ray had been kept completely in the dark.
When I took these details to Ray, he told me he'd already worked this out. He told me he'd initially been perplexed as to why one of his former key associates had produced such a damning testimony against him during the Royal Commission into the HIH collapse. A testimony he said was full of lies. Then it clicked to him that this guy must have been covering up something himself.
I said to Ray, "But now we know the truth, isn't there someone we can tell?"
"No," said Ray. "The truth is not going to do us any good at this stage."
Again, this highlights the nature of our legal system. Truth is never really an issue. The legal game is a boxing match, fought out between two opponents, with the judge acting as referee. Truth is an extraneous extra party. It really has no place in the judicial ring.
Looking back, Ray never stood a chance. He was a lightweight taking on a heavyweight without a conscience: the Australian Government. That heavyweight had the Australian media working their corner. Never was the mismatch clearer than on the day of Ray's sentencing.
I turned up to court feeling optimistic. I'm embarrassed to admit that now, but the hearing had been so exceptional and I figured in the end the judge was a human being and had to be affected. Besides that, I'd been saying plenty of prayers, as had the good people of our parish, and surely that should amount to something.
I entered the court building, looking for the private room near the foyer where I knew Ray would be gathering with his friends and family. To my surprise, though, I found Ray standing outside the door of the room with a sobbing woman in his arms.
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