Ian John Coombe pleaded guilty on October 3 to fraudulently obtaining over $400,000 by way of obtaining, without authority, a loan for $465,000 in June 2015.
Ian John Coombe pleaded guilty on October 3 to fraudulently obtaining over $400,000 by way of obtaining, without authority, a loan for $465,000 in June 2015. Kerri-Anne Mesner

Did Coombe cause Central Queensland Rugby Union's collapse?

THE community will have to wait another three months to find out if a former president caused the collapse of Central Queensland Rugby Union club.

Practising accountant Ian John Coombe, 56, pleaded guilty yesterday to fraudulently obtaining more than $400,000.

He was set to be sentenced in Rockhampton District Court, but the court heard the defence was disputing one of the facts put by the Crown.

Crown prosecutor Joshua Phillips told the court the Crown alleged the fraudulently obtained loan caused the winding up of the club.

Coombe fraudulently obtained $465,000 through a loan while acting as president of the local sporting governing body Central Queensland Rugby Union in June 2015.

Defence barrister Steve Zillman said the defence contested the point that the loan caused the collapse, saying the club had been "struggling for many, many years" and had been "topped up" by his client's own funds.

"The club was essentially insolvent for many years," he said.

"It was running because my client propped it up.

"He only sought the money owed."

Mr Zillman said the club owed Coombe $500,000 and due to the club being unable to pay him back, he obtained the loan without authority.

He said the loan was not due when the club's directors decided to go into voluntary administration in August 2015.

Mr Zillman said this allegation of causation of the club's collapse was not in the draft statement of facts provided to the defence team months ago.

"That first arose around 4pm yesterday," Mr Zillman said yesterday.

He said the defence contacted the Crown at 8.15am yesterday morning about the issue.

Mr Zillman said the defence alleged it was not necessary for the club to go into voluntary administration in August, saying they could have contacted the lender and sought to come to other arrangements.

After Coombe pleaded guilty at lunchtime, Mr Phillips proceeded to make submissions on the point of whether the loan caused the club to go into voluntary admission.

However, Judge Michael Burnett, who is a director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, disagreed with the interpretation of the club's finances put to the court by the Crown, based on information Mr Phillips had received from the Director of Public Prosecutions' forensic accountant.

Judge Burnett said based on the figures he was reading, the club had been operating insolvent since 2013 - two years before Coombe got the loan.

Mr Zillman said the Rockhampton Rugby Union Club had not been paying its rent for years and the CQRU was propping it up.

Judge Burnett said the dispute would have a significant bearing on the amount of time Coombe will be in prison, along with the fact that the case had a lot of community interest.

He said the community needed to know if Coombe's actions caused the collapse or whether he was "simply the last man standing at the end of the day".

The case has been adjourned to January 15 for a hearing and sentence.

Judge Burnett ordered an accountant's report to address whether the club was insolvent before the loan, or after.

Coombe's bail was enlarged.


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