Defendant returns to New Zealand to plead guilty to fraud

Published

Simon Lawrence Wood Turnbull appeared in the Auckland District Court today to plead guilty to Crimes Act charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Mr Turnbull pleaded guilty to 16 charges of ‘Obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception'.

The charges related to a period between September 2006 and August 2007 when Mr Turnbull was involved in a mortgage fraud where false loan applications were submitted to a fund management company to purchase 16 properties in and around the Auckland region. The charges were initially laid in November 2014, however, Mr Turnbull failed to appear at his first court date and after spending some time living overseas, Mr Turnbull surrendered voluntarily when he returned to New Zealand in June this year.

SFO Director, Julie Read said, "Mortgage fraud is taken seriously by the SFO. In a housing market which has enough challenges for the honest buyer, further costs to borrowing because of other people's dishonesty is not acceptable. The SFO welcomes the guilty plea today."

In February 2014, Malcolm Mayer was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for his role in the fraud.

Mr Turnbull will reappear for sentencing on 18 November.

ENDS

For further media information

Andrea Linton
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

Note to editors

Background to investigation

Simon Lawrence Wood Turnbull departed New Zealand on a flight to Hong Kong on 24 March 2008 and did not return until 8 June 2016.

Crimes Act offences

Section 240 Obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception
(1) Every one is guilty of obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception who, by any deception and without claim of right,-
(a) obtains ownership or possession of, or control over, any property, or any privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration, directly or indirectly; or
(b) in incurring any debt or liability, obtains credit; or
(c) induces or causes any other person to deliver over, execute, make, accept, endorse, destroy, or alter any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage; or
(d) causes loss to any other person.

(1A) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, without reasonable excuse, sells, transfers, or otherwise makes available any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage knowing that, by deception and without claim of right, the document or thing was, or was caused to be, delivered, executed, made, accepted, endorsed, or altered.

(2) In this section, deception means-
(a) a false representation, whether oral, documentary, or by conduct, where the person making the representation intends to deceive any other person and-
(i) knows that it is false in a material particular; or
(ii) is reckless as to whether it is false in a material particular; or
(b) an omission to disclose a material particular, with intent to deceive any person, in circumstances where there is a duty to disclose it; or
(c) a fraudulent device, trick, or stratagem used with intent to deceive any person.

About the SFO

The SFO was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act in response to the collapse of financial markets in New Zealand at that time.

The SFO's role is the detection, investigation and prosecution of serious or complex financial crime. The SFO's focus is on investigating and prosecuting criminal cases that will have a real effect on:

  • business and investor confidence in our financial markets and economy
  • public confidence in our justice system and public service
  • New Zealand's international business reputation.

The SFO operates three operational teams; the Evaluation and Intelligence team along with two investigative teams.

The SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.

Part 1 of the SFO Act provides that it may act where the Director "has reason to suspect that an investigation into the affairs of any person may disclose serious or complex fraud."

Part 2 of the SFO Act provides the SFO with more extensive powers where: "...the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed..."

In considering whether a matter involves serious or complex fraud, the Director may, among other things, have regard to:

  • the suspected nature and consequences of the fraud and/or;
  • the suspected scale of the fraud and/or;
  • the legal, factual and evidential complexity of the matter and/or;
  • any relevant public interest considerations.

The SFO's Annual Report 2015 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Statement of Intent 2014-2018 sets out the SFO's strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at www.sfo.govt.nz