Clarke came in the dock in a charcoal suit, runners, no tie and empty pockets. He appeared stoic as his sentence was handed down and two sheriffs escorted him out of the courtroom.
Clarke pleaded guilty last June to six charges of defrauding Mr Gordon and other clients to the tune of nearly $10 million.
At the time he was advising Mr Gordon as a solicitor at high profile Sydney law firm Atanaskovic Hartnell. By impersonating Andrew Gordon, Clarke was able to convince Deutsche Bank staff to transfer millions of dollars into a bank account thinking the account belonged to Atanaskovic Hartnell, when in fact it was his personal Westpac account.
In his sentencing remarks on Wednesday, Judge Mark Williams, SC, of the NSW District Court said this case was a “sad illustration of the moral delinquency and immorality of the online betting industry” and “the pernicious effects it has upon people seduced by its false promises of easy riches, but instead are often led into fraud and other criminal behaviour.”
“Here the offender was placing large bets on sporting events, and treated as a high roller, but the business model of the betting operation meant that if he ever became a winner he would be cut off from betting,” Judge Williams said.
Outside the court, Clarke’s lawyer, George Thomas, said the case was a lesson for people with gambling problems and lawyers who breach the trust of their clients.
Betting up to $3m a day
There were days when Clarke was betting on average over $3 million per day on football games around the world, the judge said, including $1.2 million on two American football games, $1 million on a New Zealand provincial rugby game and $1.5 million on a rugby league game between Sydney Roosters and North Queensland Cowboys.
Earlier on Wednesday, Clarke told the court he would place large bets on his smart phone on a “24 hour cycle” until 3am or 4 am at night without doing any research, based on what the app told him was the next betting opportunity.
“I didn’t know anything about those games or what league they were playing in,” Clarke said.
“They [the app] actually outline in 15 minutes, you can bet on this match, in 30 minutes you can bet on this match,” he said.
However, Judge Williams said gambling addiction did not mitigate his sentence because he had a degree of choice about how he would finance the addiction.
Nor was drug abuse a mitigating factor, the judge said, even though while working at law firm Atanaskovic Hartnell Clarke was working seven days a week with no holidays, occasionally living in his car in the law firm’s basement car park and spending about $500 a week on cocaine due to the stress at work.
Judge Williams said this was a case of a well-educated person from a privileged background making a free choice to commit a crime, and his mental health conditions including a bipolar disorder should not significantly reduce his moral culpability.
He said Clarke was a “highly, intelligent, well educated 36-year old man with a stellar curriculum vitae” which included working at leading investment banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan and working at law firm Ashurst.
As a lawyer at Atanaskovic Hartnell, Clarke was earning $240,000 a year – a figure Crown prosecutor Jason Rafeeq described as a sum “many lawyers would only dream of”.
Mr Rafeeq said the court needed to send out the message “no one is above the law”.
Close relationship with Gordon
Judge Williams said an aggravating factor was the fact he abused his position of trust as a solicitor.
By the time he defrauded him, Clarke had developed such a close relationship with Mr Gordon, that he was jokingly referred to as his son, he could ring him directly at his home in Bermuda and oversaw the renovation of his home units in Sydney.
Later, Clarke wrote a heartfelt letter of apology to Mr and Mrs Gordon, describing how he viewed Mr Gordon as an “icon of Australian corporate life”.
Judge Williams said the six-year sentence reflects a 40 per cent discount, including a 25 per cent discount for pleading guilty early.
Separately, Mr Gordon is suing Clarke’s former employer, Atanaskovic Hartnell, alleging the law firm failed to supervise him. Deutsche Bank has also been dragged in to stop Mr Gordon from bearing the brunt of the multimillion dollar fraud. The investment bank in turn is blaming Andrew Gordon for not properly reading documents before signing them.
Clarke’s sentencing comes after former Coca-Cola executive Bryan Pereira was sent to jail for four years for receiving millions of dollars in corrupt kickbacks from a supplier.