Sydney can be a tough old place to live in. It has the heaviest traffic, highest property prices and worst urban sprawl in Australia. The rest of the country derides Sydneysiders as narcissistic, money-obsessed and shallow - a gilded cage where Botox counts for more than brains and appearance reigns over substance. But in one respect, at least, Sydney is as forgiving as a saint. Stray on to the wrong side of the law as a property developer, accountant or company director, and redemption, it seems, lies just around the corner. Multimillion-dollar corporate collapse? Never mind. Shareholders swindled out of their life savings? No problem. Admit the crime, do the time, hire the right publicist and you can be back on the cocktail party circuit quicker than you can say 'The Australian Securities and Investments Commission.' Sydney is Teflon town, where nothing ever sticks. 'Shame is a foreign concept to Sydney,' said John Birmingham, the author of Leviathan, a book that delves deep into the city's murky past. 'If you get caught, you have to do your porridge. But as long as you do it with a wink and a smile, the city will have you back.' Over the past decade there has been a procession of corporate criminals and dodgy businessmen who have risen to the top of their field, fallen from grace, and bounced back. One celebrity publicist, who was found guilty of misappropriating A$720,000 (HK$4 million) in the collapse of his computerised ticketing agency in the 1980s, served 10 months of a three-year jail sentence. Since then, he has resumed his career with a vengeance, bringing to the stage numerous big ticket musicals and re-establishing himself as the city's publicity agent of first resort. Then there is the twice-bankrupt former property developer whose entry in Who's Who in Business in Australia once boasted: 'Millionaire at 21, broke at 23, multimillionaire at 27. Lost $10 million at 29-30. On the way up again.' There are dozens more with similar tales to tell. Sydney's tolerance for likeable rogues can be traced back to the city's squalid origins as a half-forgotten convict colony. 'Sydney was set up as a place of banishment,' Birmingham says. 'But it very quickly stopped being a jail and started being an entrepot. Everybody who arrived, including the convicts, had an opportunity to get rich.' At the start of the 21st century, Sydney continues to be a city bedazzled by those who achieve fame and fortune, by fair means or foul. 'When Al Capone died, more people turned up for his funeral than they did for president Truman,' said Billy Bridges, a property agent to the rich and famous. 'It's the same in Sydney. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of people like a crook.'