10th May 2018

CEO Statement on Aquanita Case penalties

The Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board today announced penalties for the five trainers and three registered stable employees charged in the Aquanita Case. The individual penalties are:

• Mr Robert Smerdon (trainer) – Disqualification for Life
• Mr Greg Nelligan (stable employee) – Disqualification for Life
• Mrs Denise Nelligan (stable employee) – Disqualification for Life
• Mr Stuart Webb (trainer) – 4 year disqualification
• Mr Tony Vasil (trainer) – 3 year disqualification
• Mr Trent Pennuto (trainer) – 2 year disqualification
• Mr Liam Birchley (trainer) – 1 year disqualification
• Mr Daniel Garland (stable employee) – 1 year disqualification

The Board has indicated it is considering also imposing a fine on Mr Smerdon in addition to the disqualification. The Stewards submitted that a fine of $100,000, the maximum fine possible under the Rules of Racing, be imposed. Mr Smerdon’s representative has been directed to file written submissions on this issue within seven days, with the Stewards directed to respond within a further three days.

The penalties come after the RAD Board found on Tuesday, 8 May 2018 that all eight were guilty of dishonest, corrupt, fraudulent, improper or dishonourable practice in that they were party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on raceday. The RAD Board also found Mr Smerdon and Mr Nelligan guilty of administering medication to a horse on raceday without the permission of the stewards, while Mr Nelligan was found guilty of lay betting on a horse under the control of his employer, failing to comply with an order of the Stewards and refusing to give evidence at a Stewards’ inquiry. All parties have the right to appeal the penalties to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) within 28 days.

“We respect the decision of the independent RAD Board and look forward to reading their reasons for decision”, said Racing Victoria Chief Executive, Giles Thompson. “It is imperative that we send the strongest possible message to the small minority who think they can undermine the integrity of our sport. If people choose to try and brazenly cheat the system to gain an unfair advantage over all of the hard-working and committed participants who abide by the Rules of Racing, then we don’t want them to have a place in our sport.

“Our participants, customers and the wider public expect Victorian racing to uphold the highest levels of integrity and we will continue to ensure that the very small minority who seek to breach the Rules of Racing are found, investigated and ultimately prosecuted. Everyone should be assured that we will continue to be proactive in seeking out those who breach the rules and will always take appropriate action to protect the integrity of the sport so that every trainer, jockey, owner and punter can compete on a level playing field. The Rules of Racing are enforced by our Integrity Services team who have worked tirelessly to detect, investigate and prosecute the charges in this case and they will continue their efforts in the interests of all those who participate within and enjoy Victorian racing.”

• This media release was originally published by Racing Victoria on 10 May 2018. Click here for the original.

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