Loan Sharks: ‘bogus’ deal paid for two players
AN NRL integrity unit investigation into the Cronulla Sharks salary cap scandal has uncovered an alleged fake invoice scam and a bogus finance loan used to secretly pay two players.
Investigators are expected to quiz former Sharks boss and now Manly Sea Eagles chief executive Lyall Gorman this week about a $100,000 'invoice' from a telecommunications company for equipment and services that were never used or even delivered.
There is no suggestion that Gorman, who was Group CEO at the time, was aware of the invoice or loan.
"I will go in to see the Integrity Unit as soon as I possibly can and let the investigation take its course," he said.
Gorman said he has been ill and unable to meet investigators until now.
Documents in possession of the NRL show the Sharks took out a five-year $100,000 loan from a finance company, which they are still paying off in monthly instalments, for the 'goods'.
The phone company Compare Communications has since been deregistered by ASIC.
The company was owned by businessman John Barker.
Barker owns another company, Kryofix, that provides a hyper-cooling chamber for injury treatment for the NSW State of Origin team and other NRL clubs.
He denies any wrongdoing.
"They (the Sharks) were meant to have all their phones come across to my company but it never happened," Barker said.
"We haven't received any money from the Sharks. It point blank hasn't happened. We might have sent them an invoice but I can categorically deny the Sharks have ever sent us $100,000. We didn't get one cent from them."
The Integrity Unit has been investigating the Sharks for five months since chief executive Barry Russell, with the backing of his board, self-reported to the NRL about serious concerns over payments in 2015 to two players who are no longer at the club.
The two players were halfback Jeff Robson and forward Chris Heighington. There is no suggestion either player was involved or aware of any dodgy financial transactions.
The NRL broadened the investigation and sent a team of auditors to Cronulla where all staff emails relating to player payments were seized.
The integrity unit also interviewed Sharks players and requested the mobile phone records of board members and senior football club staff.
Reports said one board member declined to be interviewed and has since stood down as a director.
The concern for the Sharks is what else may have been uncovered from the internet server and what other staff may be implicated.
However there is no suggestion the 2016 premiership is under threat.
The Sharks chairman at the time, Damian Keogh, denied any knowledge of salary cap rorting. The NRL hopes to wrap up its investigation before Christmas.
The fact the club self-reported will work heavily in their favour.
An NRL spokesman and Sharks chairman Dino Mezzatesta declined to comment.