Guilty plea in SFO prosecution of fictitious forex brokerage

Published

A Christchurch man has pleaded guilty to fraud in relation to a sophisticated Ponzi scheme masked as a foreign exchange brokerage.

Jimmie Kevin McNicholl (56), the director of Arena Capital Limited which traded as BlackfortFX, pleaded guilty to obtaining the registration as a financial services provider by deception at the Christchurch District Court.

Arena Capital used the illegally obtained financial services provider registration to give the impression that BlackfortFX was a legitimate forex trading platform but no trading was ever undertaken. About 900 people invested approximately $8.3 million into what was in fact a Ponzi scheme.

The Serious Fraud Office has also charged Lance Jack Ryan (44), also known as Lance Jared Thompson, with fraud in relation to the matter.

Mr Ryan has maintained a plea of not guilty in respect to obtaining registration of BlackfortFX as a financial service provider by deception, but has pleaded guilty to charges of ‘False accounting’, ‘Forgery’, ‘Reproducing documents with intent to deceive’ and ‘Theft by person in special relationship’.

Mr McNicholl and Mr Ryan are scheduled for sentencing at Christchurch District Court on 20 June.

The SFO acknowledges the assistance of the Financial Markets Authority in this investigation.

ENDS

Issued by

Henry Acland
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

Note to editors

Background information

Arena Capital Limited (Arena) was registered on the Financial Service Providers Register and purported to offer foreign exchange services to clients. The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) obtained asset preservation orders over the assets of Arena and associated persons in May 2015. The FMA also referred the matter to the Serious Fraud Office.

Arena was placed into liquidation at the Christchurch High Court on 24 July 2015.

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.

 

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.

 

Section 256 Forgery

(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years who makes a false document with the intention of using it to obtain any property, privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration.

(2) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who makes a false document, knowing it to be false, with the intent that it in any way be used or acted upon, whether in New Zealand or elsewhere, as genuine.

(3) Forgery is complete as soon as the document is made with the intent described in subsection (1) or with the knowledge and intent described in subsection (2).

(4) Forgery is complete even though the false document may be incomplete, or may not purport to be such a document as would be binding or sufficient in law, if it is so made and is such as to indicate that it was intended to be acted upon as genuine.

(5) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, without reasonable excuse, sells, transfers, or otherwise makes available any false document knowing it to be false and to have been made with the intention that it be used or acted on (in New Zealand or elsewhere) as genuine.

 

Section 258 Altering, concealing, destroying, or reproducing documents with intent to deceive

(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years who, with intent to obtain by deception any property, privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration, or to cause loss to any other person,—

(a) alters, conceals, or destroys any document, or causes any document to be altered, concealed, or destroyed; or

(b) makes a document or causes a document to be made that is, in whole or in part, a reproduction of any other document.

(2) An offence against subsection (1) is complete as soon as the alteration or document is made with the intent referred to in that subsection, although the offender may not have intended that any particular person should—

(a) use or act upon the document altered or made; or

(b) act on the basis of the absence of the document concealed or destroyed; or

(c) be induced to do or refrain from doing anything.

(3) 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 knowing that—

(a) the document was altered, concealed, or made, in whole or in part, as a reproduction of another document; and

(b) the document was dealt with in the manner specified in paragraph (a) with intent to—

  (i) obtain any property, privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration; or

  (ii) cause loss to any other person.

 

Section 260 False accounting

Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years who, with intent to obtain by deception any property, privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration, or to deceive or cause loss to any other person,—

(a) makes or causes to be made, or concurs in the making of, any false entry in any book or account or other document required or used for accounting purposes; or

(b) omits or causes to be omitted, or concurs in the omission of, any material particular from any such book or account or other document; or

(c) makes any transfer of any interest in a stock, debenture, or debt in the name of any person other than the owner of that interest.

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