Police have announced that they are treating the mysterious disappearance of a wealthy businesswoman who was under investigation by ASIC as suspicious.
Melissa Caddick was recently served with Court orders which prevented her from leaving Australia or selling any of her assets.
Two days prior to her disappearance, Police executed a search warrant on her exclusive Dover Heights premises as part of an ongoing investigation involving financial irregularities with her business dealings.
The disappearance has gripped Sydney with many in the community speculating on her whereabouts and what led to her vanishing.
Melissa Caddick left her $7 million home on the morning of 12 November 2020.
Family and friends have said that she would regularly go for morning runs. However, on this occasion she did not take her wallet, keys, or mobile phone.
Police raid Melissa Caddick's property
On 10 November 2020, Australian Federal Police (AFP) conducted a raid on her Wallangra Road property as part of an ongoing investigation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
The 49-year-old businesswoman had also been prevented from leaving Australia or selling any of her assets due to Court orders.
Ms Caddick's company, Maliver Pty Ltd, are currently in the midst of civil proceedings filed by ASIC earlier this month.
The case was listed for Hearing before a Judge in the NSW Supreme Court on 13 November 2020 - the day after she vanished. It is also listed on 27 November 2020 for a further hearing.
Police call for community help
On 20 November 2020, Detective Inspector Gretchen Atkins spoke to the media and asked for the community's assistance in locating Ms Caddick:
"We have some serious concerns for her personal safety - she did not take any of her personal belongings.She hasn't been in touch with her husband, her son, her family or any of her friends since and we're actually appealing to anybody who has seen anything."
Detective Inspector Atkins asked people in the Dover Heights area to check their CCTV or dashcam to see if they could offer any help with the investigation.
"She hasn't been in touch with her family. She hasn't been in touch with her friends.We don't have any locations that we know that she's been. She hasn't attended appointments that she had, which is why we're really concerned. She doesn't have a phone, doesn't have any access to bank accounts."
Husband speaks to the media
Melissa Caddick's husband, Anthony Koletti, also spoke to the media in front of Bondi Police Station.
Mr Koletti said he was sleeping when his wife left their home at about 5:30am on the day of the disappearance.
Reading from a prepared statement, he said, "Melissa is a dedicated and incredible mother, a beautiful daughter, sister and loved wife - we are asking the community to help bring Melissa home - that is all."
"You know how much we love you; everything is taken care of - you are not in trouble.There is nothing else I can give you further - we just want her back, that is all."
He confirmed that Ms Caddick would usually take her phone with her when running and that her disappearance was, "out of character".
Ms Caddick's older brother, Adam Grimley, was much less composed than her husband when speaking to the media.
Fighting through tears, he said, "Melissa, please let us know you are safe and sound, we love you - to our communities, we need your help to bring my little sister home.She is a lovely person, a lovely mother and a great sister to me."
Community grows suspicious
Ms Caddick's multimillion dollar property is fitted with a security camera. However, it was revealed that it had stopped working two days before Ms Caddick went missing.
Social media users pointed to the calm demeanour of Ms Caddick's husband compared to that of her brother. They also noted that the husband did not report his wife missing until a day later.
They also highlighted the ongoing investigation by ASIC and proceedings in the Supreme Court.
There is no suggestion either man is involved in Ms Caddick's disappearance.
There is no suggestion that any criminal charges are forthcoming against Ms Caddick.
Despite an extensive air, sea and land search being conducted by police, officers were forced to admit they were struggling to make any headway and were yet to find any solid leads.
"If Melissa, you are out there, we are really appealing for you to get in touch with us and to come home safely," Detective Inspector Atkins said.
Ms Caddick, who is the managing director of a Sydney consulting firm, was last seen wearing a black singlet top, leggings and silver Nike sneakers.
Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers or Bondi Police.
Similar disappearance ends in suicide
The disappearance of Ms Caddick follows the recent disappearance of Federal Court Judge, Andrew Guy, in similar circumstances.
Judge Andrew disappeared on the morning of date without his mobile phone.
He was ultimately found in November 2020 having committed suicide.
Shortly before his passing, Judge Andrew made headlines due to his bullying of members of the legal profession who appeared in his Court. The Full Court of the Family Court handed down a judgement in September 2020 heavily criticising Judge Andrew's conduct. This was reported by media outlets throughout the country.
The decision found that he was, "hectoring, bullying, insulting and demeaning" towards a Queen's Counsel and solicitor. Judge Andrew's conduct denied him a fair trial, the appeal court said.
The three-judge bench concluded there was "no basis" for Judge Andrew's "cruel, insulting, humiliating and rude" interjections.
His comments included exclamations of "Oh, God", "rubbish", "this is pathetic" and "that's garbage", along with barbs about the QC's state of dress.
This appeared to have been the norm for the Judge, with his conduct leading one young female practitioner to quit the legal profession completely.
Complex fraud offences
Generally, fraud offences in NSW will be charged under Section 192E of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) for the offence of Obtaining financial advantage or property by deception.
In order to prove a fraud offence, Police will generally need to prove that a person:
- received property or a financial advantage, OR
- caused a financial loss, AND
- The gain or loss was caused by the Accused's actions, AND
- Those actions were dishonest
The maximum penalty for 'obtaining financial advantage or property by deception' is 10 years imprisonment.
Despite this, experienced criminal lawyers for fraud charges are often able to avoid jail terms for their clients and in some cases avoid criminal convictions altogether.
However, ASIC investigations, particularly where companies are involved can fall under money laundering provisions or white-collar crime provisions.
Usually, they will commence with a Section 19 Notice pursuant to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission Act 2001.
This notice is issued by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission ("ASIC") and is intended to compel a person to assist investigators. A requirement under a section 19 Notice is mandatory and failure to comply with it is an offence which can, in some circumstances, result in a prison sentence.
One of the things that the notice can require is for a person to attend an ASIC examination. This involves a person being questioned in a formal setting.
Despite these onerous requirements, most significantly, you are entitled to be represented by a lawyer at a Section 19 Examination. You are also entitled to obtain legal advice and/or representation when providing information, books or records in compliance with a section 19 Notice.
While you are required to answer questions, hand over books, records and other information, you do have some protections against self-incrimination.
Before answering a question or providing a book or record, you can tell the investigator that your response may incriminate you. In this circumstance, you will not be required to answer the question.
Facing fraud charges?
Avoiding jail for complex fraud offences when you have excellent legal representation is not uncommon. There have even been a number of recent examples of people being found 'not guilty' to fraud charges or avoiding jail. Having the best criminal will go a long way towards this.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.