SHAMED HIH chief Ray Williams surfaced yesterday and headed straight to church in search of redemption.
With jail looming as a possibility for Mr Williams, he and wife Rita sought solace in the arms of their minister at a Good Friday suburban service.
It was the first public appearance by the former executive since the royal commission into the failed insurer’s $5.3 billion collapse handed down a stinging report three days ago. And it showed how Mr Williams had turned to God in his hour of need.
Last night his pastor revealed that. Mr Williams had become deeply involved in the church community.
He told The Daily Telegraph Mr Williams was under immense strain. “He was told at the start of all this that these things can kill people,” the pastor said.
HIH royal commissioner Justice Neville Owen handed down his 1500-page report on Wednesday.
Amid stinging criticism of Mr Williams’ management style, Justice Owen recommended eight possible breaches of corporations law be referred to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Three of the eight possible breaches attributed to Mr Williams involve potential criminal charges for providing false or misleading information. Each charge carries a two-year jail term.
Mr Williams has stayed silent on the issue since HIH was placid in liquidation on March 15, 2001 and he remained so yesterday.
Although Mr Williams repeatedly ignored requests for an interview yesterday, The Daily Telegraph was later approached by the Anglican pastor, who asked not to be named.
“I keep telling him to talk. It would be good for him.” he said. “But it’s his decision.” He described Mr Williams as a personal friend and a friend of the inner west church.
Mr Williams – who lives across town from the church – was heavily involved in the youth program, which includes running kickboxing lessons as a mean of instilling discipline and character through training and competition.
“He’s always been a very private person,” the pastor said.
“I got him to come to some of our fights, even though he’s not a fan. Once we got him to present an award. He got up and did it but you could see he didn’t really want to be there. He’d prefer to sit up the back.”
Since HIH was placed into liquidation, Mr Williams has kept an extraordinarily low profile.
Apart from appearing at the commission, the former high flyer has gone to great lengths to keep out of the public eye.
There have been sightings at his favourite gym and encounters In Mosman but essentially Mr Williams has dropped from view.
This may in part be due to the imposition of HIH related penalties which have curtailed his ability to operate in the commercial world since the middle of last year.
In May 2002 the Supreme Court banned Mr Williams from acting as a director for a Period of 10 years.
He was also ordered to pay fines of $250,000 after breaching his duties as a director under the Corporations Act.
Many of Justice Owen’s recommendations could result in similar penalties being applied if Mr Williams was found guilty of any charges that may be laid in the future.
In relation to HIH’s purchase of Ness Security Products – then a subsidiary of Brad Cooper’s Home Security International – Justice Owen’s appraisal of Mr Williams’ evidence to the commission was damning.
“Williams gave evidence that the purpose of the Ness transaction was to place HIH in a stronger position In that it gave HIH equity for its investment rather than debt,’ he said. Mr Williams also told the commission he left the valuing of Ness and HIH’s investment in it to finance director Bill Howard.
“I do not accept this,” Justice Owen wrote in his report.
He said if Mr Williams committed HIH to a purchase of Ness Security Products when he either knew or was reckless as to whether the price paid was in excess of its true value, then he might have contravened a section of the Corporations Law.