MR WARD GETS HIS DISCHARGE.
to the Stab.] INVERCARGTLL, November 5. A special Bitting of the District Court waa held this morning at ten o'clock before District Judge Ward, who stated that no sitting had been held in September of last year because-there was so little on the list, but this year so many cases had come on that it was desired by the Government that there should be one. Several Chamber applications having been disposed of, i Mr' Ward's application was theiiiaken. Mr F. R. wi th Mr Macaliater, appeared in support,; and Mr Solomon, on behalf of the official liquidators of the Colonial Bank,.appeared to oppose. Mr Chapman inquired what was the course of procedure. His Honor: The applicant goes into the box if Mr Solomon desires to examine him. Mr Solomon : I don't think I require any examination. The report of the Assignee is sufficient for my purposes. Continuing, he submitted that on the report of the Assignee Mr Ward was not entitled to an immediate or absolute order of discharge ; and further, that the Court had no power to grant such an order. The probabilities were that the opposing creditors would have been willing to allow the report and recommendation of the Assignee to guide the Court in coming to a decision on the application, but they considered that the concluding paragraph of the report was repugnant to the facta on whioh.it was based. Hence his appearance. Mr Solomon, continuing, said in paragraph 5 the Assignee stated : "I am not aware of sufficient reason for withholding Mr Ward's discharge." The preceding paragraph said that the debtor did not for tho-five years precading his bankruptcy keep proper books of account, but that a record of his transactions was kept in the books of the Association, from which and other data his true position could be ascertained. He submitted that on this ground Mr Ward should not get his, discharge, and further that it could not be granted. Mr Ward had been a large trader with an indebtedness to the Colonial Bank; then the Association was. formed, and he dealt in a large way, especially in frozen mutton. It had been admitted by Mr Ward that he agreed with the Association that he should speculate in oats, that any profits made should go to the Association, and that if there were any losses he should bear them. There could be no manner of doubt on this point, as it had been sworn by Mr Ward. The result was this : those transactions covered scores of thousands, he might say hundreds of thousands of pounds, and ended in Mr Ward becoming indebted to the Association for £55,000. That being the case, it was absolutely incumbent on him to keep proper books. It had been uniformly held by the judges throughout the colony that failure to do so was an offence under the Bankruptcy Act even where there was no fraudulent intent. No one thought of suggesting fraudulent intent here, but he submitted that it was absurd to think a man who dealt to the extent of hundreds of thousands, which might land him in heavy profits or losses, should not keep proper books. Judge Williams had laid it down that he would not allow any bankrupt who carried on any form of trading to get his discharge unless he kept proper books, and he cited cases where imperfect bookkeeping had been held a ground for suspending the discharge. He pointed out that under clause 127 of the Bankruptcy Act the judge had very large discretionary powers. Mr Chapman said that Mr Ward's reason for not keeping a set of books for his own private account was that five years prior to the date of his bankruptcy he had no business of his own. While he had, proper books were kept, and since the disposal of the business the record of his transactions had been kept in the books of the Association, in which every item was minutely recorded. He argued that the Association were in the position of Mr Ward's agents, and that separate books were not required. His Honor : Bankrupt was a large shareholder in the Association, if I remember rightly ? Mr Chapman: H8 was something like three-quarter owner. Mr Solomon : He owed for the shares. You should not put it that way. Mr Chapman : That is not so. The shares were paid for. Mr Solomon said that was not so. Mr Chapman, replying to His Ho»or, said that Mr Ward held 11,000 out of some 16.000 shares. His Honor, in giving his decision, said : I am fully awaro that there have been numerous charges of offences by the bankrupt in connection with the liquidation of the Colonial Bank and of the Ward Farmers' Association, but none of these charges are under question now,' the simple point on which the matter has to be decided being whether or not the bankrupt, within three years before the commencement of hiß bankruptcy, failed to keep such books as are usual and proper in a business of" the kind carried on by him. Tho situation was very properly desoribed by Mr Solomon as unique. Here we have a man in a large way of business selling out his business to a company and himself being the proprietor of a large propoi tion of the shares in that company. He is the managing director, and the company take over practically the whole of bis business, excepting certain freezing contracts which arc partly carried on*by the company, but which are eventually taken over by the Nelsous. It appears ; siuce this that the whole- of the transactions of the bankrupt Have been through the Ward Farmers' Association, and that the whole of his transactions appear in the books of that Association. There is no question about these books being Accurately kept, whatever the character of some of the entries may have b;en. That is not for me to decide. What I have to decide is whether any jury, having consideration for the whole of the facts before the Court, would find that because the accounts of tLe bankrupt were kept by the company of which he was the managing director, and in which he was three-fourths interested and practically proprietor—whether any jury would find him, taking these facts before me, guilty of a charge under subsection 4. Technically, the fact that he allowed his books to bo kept by the Association of which he was managing director did not amount to a misdemeanor, and t don't think that any jury would convict on such a charge. That is the only point of the position. What might have been said if other matters were brought forward I have not to decide. There has been enough Btated in the Press regarding such accusations, and I can only say that I trust that proceedings, if they should be taken elsewhere, will prove the futility of these accusations. According to the Assignee's report, it appears to me that there is no sufficient Cause for delaying the order of discharge, which I consequently grant.
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MR WARD GETS HIS DISCHARGE., Evening Star, Issue 10463, 5 November 1897