Guilty plea in Far North Maori trust fraud case

Published

A former trustee of a trust which manages a block of forested Māori land has pleaded guilty to defrauding the entity of nearly $1 million in a Serious Fraud Office prosecution.

Margaret Dixon pleaded guilty to three representative charges of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ under the Crimes Act at the Auckland District Court on 3 May.

Ms Dixon’s brother, Stephen Henare, faces six charges of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ also in relation to his role as a trustee of Parengarenga 3G (P3G) Trust, which looks after the 512 hectare forest block in the Tai Tokerau District in the Far North. Mr Henare has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is due to appear in the Auckland District Court for a case review hearing on 23 May.

Ms Dixon intentionally failed to deal with $934,270 of the trust’s funds in accordance with the P3G Trust Order. With the alleged involvement of Mr Henare, Ms Dixon facilitated the transfer of a significant amount of the trust’s money into various other bank accounts, including personal accounts and family trusts.

Mr Henare is separately charged with intentionally failing to deal with an additional amount of $149,627 in accordance with the P3G Trust Order, without the involvement of Ms Dixon. 

Ms Dixon has been remanded on bail for sentencing at the Auckland District Court on 6 July.

ENDS

Issued by

Henry Acland
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

Note to editors

Background information

Margaret Dixon (59) and Stephen Henare (60) and five other people were appointed as trustees of the Parengarenga 3G (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 the 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.

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.

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 2017 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

The SFO Twitter feed is @FraudSeriousNZ