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  • Fury at armed raid
  • By Chris Tinkler
  • The Herald Sun
  • 21/12/2003 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 75 articles in 2003 )
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Happy Family: Steve and Sarah Vizard with their children and dog Jack in 2001.

THE children of businessman Steve Vizard were home alone when armed police raided his Melbourne house.

Mr Vizard and wife Sarah are furious at the "heavy-handed" raid, though authorities have defended their actions.

A family friend yesterday revealed for the first time that the Vizard's youngest son, Jimmy, 8, answered the front door of the family's Toorak home about 8am on Tuesday.

The shocked boy faced a dozen officers, three of whom were wearing guns in shoulder holsters.

Inside were the Vizards' four other children and four of their friends -- aged between six and 13 -- playing computer games and watching television.

The friend described the raid as more like a drug bust than a search that resulted in only five documents being taken.

"The kids were home alone, as Steve was at a meeting and Sarah had popped out to do some shopping," the friend said. "Steve's son, Jimmy, answered the door and there were all the officers.

"When Sarah came back from her shopping, which was probably about 15 minutes, the raid squad were waiting with the children. You can imagine the shock."

The raid, by Australian Federal Police and Australian Securities and Investment Commission officers, was a result of allegations that Mr Vizard was involved in insider trading and tax evasion.

Officers spent up to five hours searching the house, including the attic and a wood box in the garage.

"Steve is mystified by how heavy it was," the friend said. "There were more officers than there were people in the house and at least three were carrying guns.

"Sarah had to change their plans. Imagine trying to run a house full of children while the place is swarming with cops. The number of cups of coffee they drank was greater than the number of documents they took from the house. Sarah was even pointing out places where they hadn't looked."

Another raid was executed about 9am at Mr Vizard's Melbourne office.

His former bookkeeper, Charles Roy Hilliard, who has been charged with stealing $3 million from Mr Vizard's company Performing Arts Services, has accused the businessman of using his knowledge as a Telstra director to buy stocks worth $500,000 in Sausage Software before its $4.6 billion merger with Solution 6, a company associated with Telstra, in March 2000. Mr Vizard has strongly denied the claims.

"Steve was surprised that the raid took place at all, as he was cooperating with the authorities," the friend said. "He believes it is an absolute overkill. Including the raid at his Melbourne office, there were about 20 taxpayer-funded officers employed to collect a grand total of 11 documents.

"He does welcome the investigation because it is a chance for someone independent to put the issue away once and for all. But he and his family have suffered a lot in the meantime and what happened on Tuesday has contributed to that.

"Now he is determined to go on with his normal life and is not going to let this affect the family."

Mr Vizard said yesterday: "We are looking forward to a resolution of the matter. We are working co-operatively and confidentially with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission."

ASIC and the AFP have defended their conduct. They say that when officers realised there were no adults at home, they contacted Mrs Vizard and delayed their search until she returned. But the family claims the officers were in the kitchen when Mrs Vizard arrived.

ASIC enforcement director Allen Turton said: "We have a number of ways in which we can collect evidence. One of those is to serve notices on people to provide information to us. Nine times out of 10, people provide that information.

"But on this occasion, it was believed there was non-compliance and a court approved the issuing of a search warrant."

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