Serious financial crime can impact personal, family and community wellbeing. It is insidious, everchanging and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable groups in society.
When considering whether to take on a case, the SFO looks at the nature and consequences of the alleged offending, its scale, complexity of the alleged offending and public interest factors.
PARENGARENGA 3G TRUST
This complex case involved a Far North Māori land trust being defrauded by two of its trustees of more than $1 million. Stephen James Henare and his sister Margaret Janene Dixon stripped P3G Trust of its entire capital base, leaving a mere $13 in its accounts. The funds were primarily intended for the management of a 512-hectare block of land, which was used by the trust for a commercial forestry venture. Mr Henare also sold and retained the proceeds of the trust’s carbon credits.
Mr Henare maintained his innocence until the fourth day of his High Court trial in Auckland when he pleaded guilty to all charges. As the instigator of the offending, he admitted failing to deal with approximately $1.08 million of P3G Trust’s funds in accordance with the P3G Trust Order. During the time of his offending, Mr Henare lied to the Māori Land Court about the financial position of P3G Trust. An application to replace him as a trustee was subsequently dismissed. Mr Henare went on to use his position as a trustee to steal the remaining $400,000 of the trust’s cash.
His and his sister’s offending has had a devastating financial, social and emotional impact on the 400 beneficial owners of P3G Trust. The current trustees are faced with challenges in the continued maintenance of the forest and the potential future loss of a substantial portion of the remaining assets of the trust.
The offending further negatively impacted on the mana and tikanga of the whanau, whakapapa and wider community of Te Aupouri, including lost employment opportunities, lost opportunity for financial support to the local school and community initiatives and exposure of the beneficial owners to public ridicule.
Mr Henare was sentenced to five years and two months’ imprisonment on five representative charges of theft in a special relationship and one charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Meanwhile Ms Dixon pleaded guilty in 2018 to theft by person in a special relationship. She was sentenced 12 months’ home detention and ordered to pay $5,000 in reparation
ALPHA SUPPORT CENTRE TRUST
This was a distressing case involving some of the most vulnerable members of the Christchurch community. Alpha Support Centre was set up to care for people with intellectual disabilities and help them with their personal development. It received funding from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development. The trust, however, was not what it should have been because of the selfish and illegal activities of its operators, Cecilia Ann Ellenbroek and her husband Alfonsus Jozef Maria Ellenbroek.
As trustees of Alpha, the couple stole nearly $500,000 from the charity over a five-year period. They spent the funds on extensive international travel and accommodation, jewellery, household appliances and other personal expenses. Their offending was in gross breach of the trust placed on them and deprived their vulnerable clients of much needed care and support.
The Ellenbroeks each pleaded guilty to six theft charges and Mrs Ellenbroek pleaded guilty to a further six false accounting charges. In addition to being ordered to pay full reparation of $494,545, Mrs Ellenbroek was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention and 300 hours of community work. Mr Ellenbroek was sentenced to six months of community detention and 200 hours of community work, in addition to reparation.