A top Perth doctor and a former Citigroup stockbroker have been left in legal limbo after a hung jury acquitted them on a majority of insider trading charges but failed reach a verdict on five counts.
The decision means that paediatrician Flemming Nielsen and his share adviser Rob Catena may have to face another trial on the unresolved charges over cancer diagnostics company Vision Systems.
Mr Catena and some members of his family quietly wept as the jury foreman pronounced Mr Catena not guilty on 13 charges that he procured Dr Nielsen to buy shares in Vision ahead of a $2.13-a-share bid being launched on August 14, 2006.
After 13 days of hearings involving evidence from financial experts and the playing of recordings from Citigroup's broker phone system, the jury took almost two days to reach their verdicts and their impasse.
The complexity of insider trading charges was highlighted by trial judge Michael Corboy in legal discussions while the jury was out of the court.
Justice Corboy, whose previous work as a barrister included representing Hungary when it tried to extradite Charles Zentai for a suspected war crime, said the insider trading legislation was "plainly drafted by someone who has never done a criminal case".
The jury had to deal with a case that had no direct evidence of Mr Catena or Mr Nielsen having received information from inside Vision. Rather the prosecution case involved interpretations of phone calls and emails allegedly showing the men had information that was not generally available and inferring Mr Catena had somehow received word of an impending bid.
The recordings played to the jury included Mr Catena telling clients there was a rumour of a bid for Vision at a price of $2.20.
He also later discussed the rumoured timing and spoke of having a contact.
However, defence lawyers argued during the trial that the pricing and timing of a bid could have been discerned from publicly available information, including analyst reports and statements made by the company.
Mr Catena was also acquitted on charges that he procured two other clients to buy shares and that he tipped off former Melbourne-based Citigroup colleague and AFL umpire Mark McKenzie.
In May 2011, a Melbourne magistrate threw out five charges against Mr McKenzie of procuring clients, including former footballers Rick Olarenshaw and Matthew Banks, to buy shares based on alleged insider information about Vision.
Mr Catena was yesterday acquitted on a total of 17 charges, including that he told former Swan Districts footballer Don Langsford about the allegedly insider talk on July 25.
However, the jury could not reach a verdict that he also tipped off Mr Langsford on August 4. It also could not reach verdicts on charges that he procured Perth paediatrician Paul Porter to buy shares on July 24, and that he procured another client to buy shares on August 4.
The jury acquitted Dr Nielsen on 11 charges over share purchases during July, 2006, and on August 4.
Yet it could not reach a verdict over allegedly trading with insider information on August 2. On August 2, Mr Catena had told Dr Nielsen that he had spoken to his contact that day and the contact apparently said "very close, Rob".
The five unresolved charges will be back before trial Justice Corboy on April 8 for a status conference, where it may be revealed if the men will face another trial.
Prosecutor Sam Vandongen said he would have to take instructions from his client, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
Outside the court, Dr Nielsen declined to comment on the verdict but said the process "has been extremely stressful".
After being congratulated by a big group of supporters, Mr Catena said he was glad about the result.Lawyer Shash Nigam said it had cost Mr Catena a lot of money to fight the case and it had taken a toll on him and his family.
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