Police freeze $7.5m in assets of ex chief of staff to NAB boss
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Police freeze $7.5m in assets of ex chief of staff to NAB boss

Police have frozen nearly $8 million in assets owned by the former chief of staff to outgoing National Australia Bank boss Andrew Thorburn, including a $1 million NAB bank cheque as part of an investigation into alleged fraud inside the bank.

The NSW and Victorian supreme courts slapped freezing orders over Rosemary Rogers' $6.2 million property portfolio, three of her bank accounts and the $1 million cheque following a proceeds of crime application by the NSW Crime Commission last year.

Outgoing NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn and his former chief of staff Rosemary Rogers.

Outgoing NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn and his former chief of staff Rosemary Rogers.

The orders are part of an investigation by NSW police into allegations Ms Rogers and a corporate event contractor were involved in running a massive fraud against the bank. Ms Rogers has not been charged and the investigation is ongoing.

Ms Rogers is suspected of rorting more than $500,000 from NAB to fund an extravagant overseas family holiday that included first class travel and a luxury resort.

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Mr Thorburn and NAB chairman Ken Henry suddenly resigned on Thursday after criticism from the banking royal commission of both men.

On Wednesday, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald revealed police were investigating whether shoddy oversight inside Mr Thorburn's office enabled and emboldened Ms Rogers and the event contractor to pull off a suspected multimillion-dollar fraud.

Laucala Island Resort in Fiji where outgoing NAB boss Andrew Thorburn enjoyed a lavish holiday arranged by his former chief of staff.

Laucala Island Resort in Fiji where outgoing NAB boss Andrew Thorburn enjoyed a lavish holiday arranged by his former chief of staff.

In November, both papers revealed how Mr Thorburn took a luxury Fiji holiday and a Thermomix arranged by Ms Rogers and the Human Group.

While Mr Thorburn paid several thousand dollars towards the trip, the full cost of it and the Thermomix was ultimately passed on to NAB shareholders via inflated invoices issued by the Human Group.

NAB disclosed a small number of "inadvertent" breaches of the company's policies by Mr Thorburn in relation to Ms Rogers' activities in its annual report, but said he had been cleared of wrongdoing by the bank's board.

According to October's board minutes, NAB is of the belief the misappropriation of funds had begun occurring years before Mr Thorburn's appointment as chief executive.

This Williamstown house, in Melbourne's inner west, was purchased by Rosemary Rogers.

This Williamstown house, in Melbourne's inner west, was purchased by Rosemary Rogers.

Ms Rogers was the chief of staff of Mr Thorburn’s predecessor, Cameron Clyne, who retired as the bank's boss in August 2014. There is no suggestion Mr Thorburn is involved in the alleged criminal conduct.

Proceeds-of-crime restraining orders were slapped over Ms Rogers' $6.7 million property portfolio amassed between 2013 and 2017, the $1 million cheque, two speed boats and Ms Rogers' 2015 Range Rover in December.

Under the orders, Ms Rogers' husband, Anthony, must provide police with a list of any property held in his name. Calls to their family home in Williamstown went unanswered on Thursday.

Four properties purchased by Ms Rogers are subject to the freezing orders.

This includes a sprawling property in Bellbrae, a rural hamlet nestled between popular Victorian beachside towns Torquay and Anglesea. The Rogers purchased the property in 2013 for just under a $1 million but it is expected to have increased in value.

The Rogers' elegant four-bedroom, heritage-fronted home in Williamstown, replete with an indoor pool is also frozen.

The couple purchased it December 6, 2017, just weeks after the banking royal commission was called by the federal government.

Also frozen is a two-bedroom $700,000-plus "executive" apartment in Williamstown with bayside views purchased in December 2017, as well as a large flat in the Dimmey's apartment redevelopment in Cremorne a few kilometres from NAB's Docklands offices.

A 2016 Chaparral Sunesta motorboat and an Anglapro Sniper motorboat have also been frozen.

Ms Rogers' overseas jaunt is the most egregious transaction being probed by NSW detectives, according to NAB sources.

Two NAB insiders have said that they both had concerns about a culture of largesse and extravagant spending that became normalised inside Mr Thorburn's office and which allegedly centred around Ms Rogers and contractor the Human Group.

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One NAB insider alleged that Ms Rogers kept a "slush fund" from which she gave staff benefits, including expensive gifts.

The police suspect Ms Rogers and the Human Group devised a system in which they allegedly issued inflated invoices to NAB to collect kickbacks and cover certain private expenses, including Ms Rogers' $500,000 overseas holiday.

A NAB spokesman said the bank continued to co-operate with police on an inquiry which was instigated by a whistleblower report.

"If the alleged fraud is proven, it represents a most serious breach of trust by a former employee," the spokesman said.

Mr Thorburn told journalists on Thursday night that the bank had reported the situation to the police and it was co-operating with police inquiries.

Sarah Danckert is a business reporter.

Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age. He's won seven Walkley awards and covers politics, business, foreign affairs and defence, human rights issues, the criminal justice system and social affairs.

Richard Baker is a multi-award winning investigative reporter for The Age.

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