Ex-Parramatta boss Scott Seward ‘pulled the strings’ in cap scandal, court told

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Former Parramatta chief executive Scott Seward has been described as the man “pulling the strings” during the club’s salary cap scandal, a court has been told.

Seward initially escaped without conviction for his role in the matter when he was sentenced in the Downing Centre Local Court in July. He had earlier pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining $221,106.50 from the Parramatta Leagues Club by arranging and authorising false invoices between November 2014 and June 12, 2015. Those fraud offences carry penalties of up to five years in jail, but Seward was given just a two-year good behaviour bond. The matter was back in District Court on Wednesday after police were granted an appeal against the leniency of the sentence.

Former Parramatta Eels CEO Scott Seward during a court appearance on Wednesday. Former Parramatta Eels CEO Scott Seward during a court appearance on Wednesday. Photo: AAP

Seward’s psychologist, Dr Kaylene Evers, told the court he was “elated” at initially escaping without conviction but had spiralled into a severe depression after being notified of the appeal. She said there were days when Seward couldn’t get out of bed or perform simple tasks.

The court heard Seward had been unemployed for a period of time following his departure from the Eels before getting a job stacking shelves at a Coles supermarket.

“It is nigh on impossible having a positive sense of self while he is doing that,” Dr Evers said.

Seward had recently been interviewed twice for a position at the North Ballarat Football Club, an Australian rules outfit competing in the Victorian Football League. The court was told a conviction could compromise his chances of employment.

The Crown argued a non-conviction was “manifestly inadequate”, given Seward’s involvement in the cap scandal, describing him as being in a “position of some authority”.

“The respondent was pulling the strings, as it were,” said Stephen Makin, for the crown.

“He signed the [false] invoices himself … targeted his suppliers.”

Deputy chief magistrate Chris O’Brien said Seward was unqualified for the chief operating officer position when handing down the initial sentence. However, Makin described Seward as “competent and skilful” in his arranging of undisclosed payments to players.

“It is entirely inappropriate for a Section 10  [where a person is found guilty but no conviction is recorded] for a case of this nature,” Makin stated.

Shortly after starting in the CEO role, Seward was informed that there were $589,000 worth of outstanding payments to players and managers.

According to the facts sheet tendered in the initial hearing, Seward arranged for landscaping and ground maintenance firm Green Options to issue false invoices totalling $76,000. Seward arranged for a further five false invoices totalling $145,106.50 to be arranged with Leba Zibara of Zibara Clothing. Those funds were also to players and managers.

The NSW Police Force’s Fraud and Cybercrime squad spent more than a year putting together its case against Seward and former football manager Jason Irvine, whose case is set for mention later this year. Seward has indicated he will assist police in that matter, although the court heard he may not be the best witness given his current psychological state.

A decision on the appeal is expected to be delivered on Friday.