The Sure Thing: Australia’s scam of the century

The Australian Financial Review

Australians are good at podcasts, aren’t they? It’s just impossible to ignore. Perhaps there’s something in the national character — if we’re to believe in such things — that gives rise to a frank, no nonsense lens on the world. Even in the roughest of circumstances, Australian podcast subjects seem to maintain a kind stoicism that pairs well with gallows humor.

Never has this fortitude been more evident than in the intriguing case of Chris Hill who, together with his pal Lukas Kamay, conspired to make a fast buck via an insider trading con. Having been rumbled and sentenced to some prison time, Chris now steadfastly bears all for The Sure Thing host Angus Grigg, who pieces together the events that led to the pair’s ultimate downfall.

There is something wonderfully understated about this podcast that makes the whole scenario almost worryingly relatable.

Just two young friends at a party, all cock-sure and doing-okay-thank-you-very-much, making a plan to scratch each other’s backs. To share a secret booty they can only acquire because they’re shrewd and successful (and dare I say privileged?).

Then one goes rogue in the way only over-achievers can. He catches the bug, pockets millions in ill-gotten side gains, and then becomes careless. Soon the whole racket is exposed.

Lukas doesn’t appear on the podcast, but he doesn’t have to. His character is in many ways thinner and less interesting than that of Chris. He’s arrogant and bombastic. You know the type; you’ve met him in a city bar. No, it’s forgiving and contrite Chris who opens the truly fascinating window into what it’s like to be arrested, convicted, and serve time for playing a major role in one of the biggest financial scams in Australian history.

It sounds terrifying.

Chris speaks so plainly, recalling the details of what it was like to live with his family ahead of his conviction, how he felt when Lukas was transferred to his prison, and just how hard it was to secure a job with such a humdinger of a previous offense on his resume. It’s disarmingly accessible subject matter.

Yes, this is a story of treachery and burner phones and betrayal and stupidity and police raids and penance and new-beginnings. But Grigg is delightfully straightforward and light-footed in his role of chief navigator. And although the magnitude of the crime is never downplayed, we come to see Chris and — to a lesser extent — Lukas as naive young men, flexing their muscles and satiating their appetite for risk in a jaw-droppingly blasé way. A couple of idiots, in essence. Which is precisely what they were.

Some good-value guest interviews help Grigg tell the story in full color, and if it falls down in any way, it is perhaps because the crime does feel “victimless” in this retelling — which, of course, it isn’t. Nevertheless, this is still an excellent and an eye-opening cautionary tale for anyone who has ever been tempted to exploit their access to confidential information.

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