Disgraced lawyer testifies against ex-boss
TEXT messages between lawyers at a high-profile Brisbane law firm discussing cash payments left in office drawers and under keyboards have been aired in court.
Disgraced ex-lawyer Tim Meehan, who was jailed for his part in the alleged fraud, today gave evidence at the committal hearing of his former boss Michael Bosscher and his former colleagues, solicitor Alexander Ralston Jones and law clerk Thomas William Strofield.
The three were each charged in late 2017 after a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation targeting suspected criminal activity in the Queensland legal industry.
Meehan, whose high-profile clients included Daniel Morcombe's killer Brett Cowan, was jailed for five-and-a-half years - and released from prison in January - after pleading guilty to aggravated fraud and fraudulently falsifying records during his time at Bosscher Lawyers.
At the time of his sentencing, the court heard Meehan had collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash payments from clients as part of a scheme to dodge financial reporting and bankruptcy obligations, before attempting to hide his tracks by falsifying records.
Crown prosecutor Mark Whitbread asked Meehan to explain a series of text messages including one in 2015 in which he writes to Bosscher and Jones asking "did one of you boys leave me a present" to which Jones replies "I did".
""The message (meant) that there was cash and that cash was put there by Alex Jones in relation to one of Michael Bosscher's clients," Meehan told Brisbane Magistrates Court today.
In another message, Meehan says he sent a message to Jones saying "keyboard mate".
"It's a message from me to Alex Jones saying 'keyboard mate', meaning I had left some cash money under his keyboard," Meehan said.
In another 2015 exchange Meehan said the text messages meant that Jones had left money under his keyboard but that is was "just small fish" and "nothing to get excited about" because it was "a few hundred dollars".
Mr Jones's defence barrister Stephen Keim put to Meehan that he had willingly made statements against his former boss and colleagues in a bid to try secure indemnity from prosecution, which Meehan denied.
He said indemnity was only part of the reason for him speaking to the CCC, and reiterated comments he made to investigators saying "this is my one and only opportunity to make things right and that's why I'm here".
Mr Keim also questioned Meehan's honesty as a lawyer, grilling him on a statement he made in his CCC interview in which he said he had charged a man $50,000 for representing him at a summary trial.
"Charging people an extraordinary amount of money for legal proceedings because you perceive them of not being short of a dollar... could be perceived as price gouging," Mr Keim said.
"That was the policy you conducted wasn't it...you charged as much as you thought a client could pay."
Meehan agreed that was his policy but said he did not believe it was price gouging or dishonest and that it meant he would also charge people who couldn't afford as much less than he should have.
"I don't think it's dishonest," he said.
Earlier in the day, Meehan's former mistress and then law-clerk Xanthe Larcombe-Weate also gave evidence, telling the court she regularly chased payments from clients when she worked for Meehan.
She told the court she and Meehan, who was a married father-of-four when Larcombe-Weate started working for him, became intimately involved in July 2013 and that the pair are still in a relationship.
Larcombe-Weate told the court Meehan would "always" carry cash and that he had given her $11,000 cash to put toward buying herself a BMW and that he purchased her a $1500 Mont Blanc pen and a $1500 desk for her 21st birthday.
She told the court she would regularly chase payments from clients for Meehan at his instruction and would either give him the cash or deposit it into bank accounts including his own and his then-wife's.
Ms Larcombe-Weate has not been accused of any wrongdoing and his been given indemnity from prosecution.
The hearing continues.