Former Wellington trust Chair guilty of fraud

Published

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecution of Sir Ralph Heberley Ngatata Love has received a verdict in the Wellington High Court today.

In a three-week trial which concluded on 25 August, Sir Ngatata Love faced one Crimes Act charge of ‘Obtaining by deception' and one alternative charge under Section 4 of the Secret Commissions Act.

Sir Ngataa was found guilty of 'Obtaining by deception'.

The prosecution related to a significant commercial property development project which was undertaken in Wellington. The project involved land owned by the Wellington Tenths Trust of which Sir Ngatata Love was the Chair. The SFO alleged that Sir Ngatata arranged for himself and his partner, Lorraine Skiffington, to obtain control, for their own benefit, of a premium the prospective developers were prepared to pay to secure a leasehold interest in the property. This was done, the SFO alleged, without disclosure to, and in secret from, the remaining Trustees of the Wellington Tenths Trust. 

As a result of an agreement reached with the prospective developers, payments totaling $1,687,500 were made to a company associated with Ms Skiffington. These payments were concealed from the Wellington Tenths Trust.

SFO Director, Julie Read said, "There is a risk that this sort of activity can occur when property development, competition for business and significant sums of money are involved. As the decision of the Court in this matter found, the abuse of trust for personal gain is a very serious matter."

Three defendants were charged in July 2013 in relation to the development and all had name suppression orders which were lifted at the beginning of Sir Ngatata's trial. Matene Love, Sir Ngatata's son, pleaded guilty to one charge under Section 4 of the Secret Commissions Act. He was sentenced on 29 October 2015 to six months' home detention. Lorraine Skiffington had her charges permanently stayed in August 2015 due to her ill-health.

The SFO acknowledges the Wellington Tenths Trust who cooperated fully during the process.
Sir Ngatata Love's Counsel requested that conviction of the charged be deferred. He has been released on bail and will be sentenced on 6 October in the Wellington High Court.

ENDS

For further media information

Andrea Linton
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

Note to editors

Background to investigation

The Wellington Tenths Trust administers Maori reserve land largely in the urban Wellington area. The Trust was established in 1985. Sir Ngatata was the Chairman and a trustee of the Wellington Tenths Trust.

Ms Skiffington is a lawyer and has previously held senior advisory roles within central government.
Matene Love is Sir Ngatata's son. On 21 September 2015, Matene Love pleaded guilty to one charge of ‘Receiving a secret commission' under Section 4 of the Secret Commissions Act. The charge related to a property development in Wellington involving land owned by the Wellington Tenths Trust. He was sentenced on 29 October 2015 to six months' home detention.

Secret Commissions Act offences

Section 4 Acceptance of such gifts by agent an offence
(1) Every agent is guilty of an offence who corruptly accepts or obtains, or agrees or offers to accept or attempts to obtain, or solicits from any person, for himself or for any other person, any gift or other consideration as an inducement or reward for doing or forbearing to do, or for having done or forborne to do, any act in relation to the principal's affairs or business (whether such act is within the scope of the agent's authority or the course of his employment as agent or not), or for showing or having shown favour or disfavour to any person in relation to the principal's affairs or business.

(2) Every agent who diverts, obstructs, or interferes with the proper course of the affairs or business of his principal, or fails to use due diligence in the prosecution of such affairs or business, with intent to obtain for himself or for any other person any gift or other consideration from any person interested in such affairs or business, shall be deemed to have corruptly solicited a consideration within the meaning of this section.
Crimes Act offences

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.

(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