Former AFL star Paul Salmon, left, heads into court in support of his friend Anthony Vippond (centre) earlier this month. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer
A close friend and business partner of former AFL Essendon and Hawthorn champion Paul "The Fish" Salmon has been convicted and fined $5000 on a deception charge.
Mr Salmon recently made an impassioned plea to a judge for his "trusted" friend Anthony Vippond who fraudulently obtained a $448,000 bank loan.
Mr Salmon said in sworn evidence that he stood by Vippond and was "committed in my friendship and business relationship" to a man he trusted implicitly.
He told Judge Mark Taft a criminal conviction for Vippond, 39, could undermine their international "clean technology" business plans, including their reputation in the United Arab Emirates through a prominent family with ties to the rulers.
Mr Salmon said in late 2008 and early 2009 he was concerned for Vippond over "a lot of duress and stress" he and his family were under over a business partnership breakdown that led to "decision-making that was out of character".
The County Court heard that Vippond and an acquaintance, Stephen Arnold, created bogus documents for a $448,000 loan application to Bank of Queensland that Vippond's wife signed and made in January 2009.
Prosecutor Michael Sharpley said the application falsely asserted that his wife, Nerida Vippond, was employed as a business manager on a salary of $180,000.
He said Arnold, who was fined $2500 without conviction for his role, maintained that Vippond told him the forms were to help Mrs Vippond find work and that he agreed on that basis.
Mr Sharpley said Mrs Vippond, who is contesting her charges, told police in a statement that her husband controlled family finances and she signed documents "at his instigation" without knowing they were false.
Mr Sharpley noted that Vippond had no convictions, the loan was repaid in full and discharged in February 2010, and that his guilty plea to obtaining a financial advantage by deception was entered early, but submitted he had to serve part of a jail sentence.
In his sentencing on Wednesday, Judge Taft said his view was the objective gravity of the offence did not warrant a jail sentence, but that a fine without conviction could not be justified.
Judge Taft said he accepted that Vippond's reputation "may be tarnished" by recording a conviction, but decided the nature of the offence did not warrant not recording one.
He noted there was a strong public interest in ensuring that representations to financial lenders were accurate.
Defence barrister Daniel Gurvich had submitted a conviction would "tarnish" Vippond's previous "outstanding" reputation more than a finding of guilt, and his overseas travel would be restricted.
Mr Salmon said he and Vippond, an electrician, had worked for six years to establish their business, which was on the verge of a launch and Vippond's "quite brilliant" technical expertise was integral to the business.
He said he was disappointed by Vippond's conduct.
Vippond's uncle Mark Brady said that at the time of the offence Vippond was in "very deep financial stress" caused by excessive borrowing and the burden of repayments.
Judge Taft said but for Vippond's guilty plea he would have fined him $10,000.