Former trustee of Far North Maori fund pleads guilty to fraud mid-trial

Published

A former trustee of a Far North Māori land trust has admitted stealing more than $1 million from the trust.

Midway through his High Court trial, Stephen Henare (61) pleaded guilty to five counts of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ and one count of ‘Attempting to pervert the course of justice’. The charges were brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

Mr Henare had pleaded not guilty previously to all the charges but changed his plea yesterday, the fourth day of his trial in Auckland which was expected to last three weeks.

Mr Henare was a trustee of the Parengarenga 3G Trust (P3G Trust), which managed a 512-hectare commercial forest on Māori land in the Tai Tokerau District. The forest block has more than 400 beneficial owners.

With the involvement of his sister, Margaret Dixon, Mr Henare facilitated the transfer of P3G Trust’s funds into various other bank accounts, including personal accounts and family trusts.

Mr Henare was the instigator of the offending. He intentionally failed to deal with $1,083,897 of P3G Trust’s funds in accordance with the P3G Trust Order. In addition, he lied to the Māori Land Court in 2013 about the financial position of P3G Trust.      

Mr Henare has been remanded on bail to reappear for sentencing at the Auckland High Court on 26 July.

Ms Dixon, also a former trustee of the P3G Trust, pleaded guilty last year to defrauding the trust. She was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention and ordered to pay $5,000 in reparation.

ENDS

Issued by

Henry Acland
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

Note to editors

Background information

Stephen Henare (61) and Margaret Dixon (60) and five other people were appointed as trustees of the Parengarenga 3G Trust (P3G Trust) in June 2012, in place of the Māori Trustee.

About $1.1 million was transferred from the Māori Trustee to P3G Trust bank accounts in August of that year. The funds were intended primarily for the management of the land and the forest for the benefit of the owners. A further $54,480 was also obtained by the trust from the sale of carbon credits.

P3G is a 511.83 hectare block of forested Māori land in Tai Tokerau District in the Far North. The land and its assets are managed by the P3G Trust. There are hundreds of beneficial owners of the land.

Mr Henare and Ms Dixon have been removed as trustees of P3G Trust.

Crimes Act offences

Section 220 Theft by person in special relationship
(1) This section applies to any person who has received or is in possession of, or has control over, any property on terms or in circumstances that the person knows require the person—
(a) to account to any other person for the property, or for any proceeds arising from the property; or
(b) to deal with the property, or any proceeds arising from the property, in accordance with the requirements of any other person.

(2) Every one to whom subsection (1) applies commits theft who intentionally fails to account to the other person as so required or intentionally deals with the property, or any proceeds of the property, otherwise than in accordance with those requirements.

(3) This section applies whether or not the person was required to deliver over the identical property received or in the person’s possession or control.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (1), it is a question of law whether the circumstances required any person to account or to act in accordance with any requirements.

117 Corrupting juries and witnesses

Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who—

(a) dissuades or attempts to dissuade a person, by threats, bribes, or other corrupt means, from giving evidence in any cause or matter (whether civil or criminal, and whether tried or to be tried in New Zealand or in an overseas jurisdiction); or

(b) influences or attempts to influence, by threats or bribes or other corrupt means, a member of a jury in his or her conduct as such (whether in a cause or matter tried or to be tried in New Zealand or in an overseas jurisdiction, and whether the member has been sworn as a member of a particular jury or not); or

(c) accepts any bribe or other corrupt consideration to abstain from giving evidence (whether in a cause or matter tried or to be tried in New Zealand or in an overseas jurisdiction); or

(d) accepts any bribe or other corrupt consideration on account of his or her conduct as a member of a jury (whether in a cause or matter tried or to be tried in New Zealand or in an overseas jurisdiction, and whether the member has been sworn as a member of a particular jury or not); or

(e) wilfully attempts in any other way to obstruct, prevent, pervert, or defeat the course of justice in New Zealand or the course of justice in an overseas jurisdiction.

About the SFO

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act.

The SFO is the lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex financial crime, including bribery and corruption.

The presence of an agency dedicated to white-collar crime is integral to New Zealand’s reputation for transparency, integrity, fair-mindedness and low levels of corruption.

This work contributes to a productive and prosperous New Zealand and the SFO’s collaborative efforts with international partners also reduce the serious harm that corrupt business practices do to the global economy.

The SFO has two operational teams: the Evaluation and Intelligence team and the Investigations team.

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 2018 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.

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