Former Racing Qld chiefs Bob Bentley and Bill Ludwig could face a full probe by the corporate watchdog over claims they mismanaged the industry.
The two former strongmen of Queensland’s racing industry could be jailed if the corporate watchdog finds they recklessly administered the industry.
The Queensland Racing Commission of Inquiry on Friday delivered its findings to the government, and made scathing findings about the conduct of Bob Bentley and Bill Ludwig.
Commissioner Margaret White recommended Mr Bentley, the former Racing Queensland (RQ) chairman, and Mr Ludwig, a former RQ board member, be referred to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC).
A key allegation is that the men may have breached their duties by failing to resolve a deal between RQ and gambling giant Tattsbet.
That issue is currently before the Supreme Court in Brisbane, with RQ alleging it’s owed up to $130 million by Tattsbet in access fees paid by corporate bookies.
Justice White also recommended eight other racing identities be referred to the watchdog for investigation.
They are former RQ board members Tony Hanmer, Bob Lette, Brad Ryan, Wayne Milner, and Kerry Watson and former RQ executives Sharna Reid, Malcolm Tuttle and Paul Brennan.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie accused Mr Bentley and Mr Ludwig of running the multi-million dollar industry as their own empire.
“These were dark days for racing in Queensland. It has been a cloud over the entire industry,” he told reporters.
“Mr Bentley and Mr Ludwig ran racing in Queensland without any oversight from the Labor government. It was the Bob Bentley show.”
Mr Bleijie said while the inquiry had cost $3 million, the overall cost in potential losses caused by the previous RQ board to the racing industry was tens of millions.
He said the government would now digest the report and decide whether to follow Justice White’s recommendations of referring the 10 people to ASIC.
He would not rule out the possibility of some aspects of the report being referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions or other prosecution bodies.
Justice White recommended the 10 be investigated by ASIC under sections 200B and 200D of the Corporations Act – both of which carry jail terms of up to six months.
Racing Minister Steve Dickson said the previous government had let a situation develop which would not be tolerated by the current government.
Justice White did not make any adverse findings against three former Labor racing ministers Andrew Fraser, Tim Mulherin and Peter Lawlor.
However, she did raise questions about a lack of government oversight of RQ’s dealings.
Justice White also did not make any adverse findings against Contour Consulting Engineering which had been the subject of allegations about its dealings with RQ.
She further examined allegations regarding a deal between betting giant TattsBet and Product Co, a body set up by RQ to collect race field fees.
Justice White said there was no evidence any director or executive used his position for personal advantage but Mr Bentley had possibly breached his duty to RQ.
Current Racing Queensland CEO Darren Condon said RQ would not be commenting on the report at this stage.
AAP has sought comment from Mr Ludwig but was unable to contact him on Friday.
In a statement released by his lawyers on Friday afternoon, Mr Bentley said the inquiry was politically-motivated by lies and conspiracy theories.
“The inquiry was used as a repository by opponents of the previous board of Racing Queensland for all sorts of conspiracy theories that were without foundation,” Mr Bentley said.