The Federal Court in Darwin has today disqualified Mr John Berto from managing companies or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations for a period of two years. The proceedings were brought by the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, Anthony Beven.
Mr Berto is the former CEO of the Thamarrurr Regional Authority Aboriginal Corporation (TRAAC) and the current CEO of the Thamarrurr Development Corporation Ltd (TDC), both of which are based in the community of Wadeye in the Northern Territory.
Justice Mansfield issued consent orders banning Mr Berto following declarations that Mr Berto had contravened several civil penalty provisions of the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI Act). Mr Berto was found to have wrongfully diverted approximately $1.6 million in Commonwealth grant funds belonging to TRAAC to pay operational expenses of TDC.
The commencement of Mr Berto’s disqualification has been delayed until 24 March 2014. This will allow TDC to recruit a new CEO to replace Mr Berto. This was consented to by the Registrar to minimise any disruption to the operations of TDC in the Wadeye community.
TRAAC is the social, cultural and political representative body for the community at Wadeye (Port Keats) in the Northern Territory. The remote community, some 400 kilometres southwest of Darwin, has a population of approximately 3,000 people.
The Federal Court proceedings were commenced in December 2013 and followed an investigation by the Registrar into the affairs of TRAAC. Mr Berto cooperated fully during the investigation and consented to the disqualification order being made. No other orders were sought against Mr Berto and all monies have now been repaid by TDC to TRAAC.
‘CEOs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations must always act with the utmost integrity,’ said Mr Beven. ‘If they fail to fulfil their responsibilities I am committed to taking action to remove them from the management of corporations.’
For further information about this case see the Registrar’s media release of 19 December 2013 (ORIC MR1314-22). For more information about disqualification see the Registrar’s fact sheet, Disqualification from managing corporations under the CATSI Act. Both items are available at www.oric.gov.au.
(02) 6146 4743
ORIC MR 1314-26
19 February 2014