Manager admits defrauding Waitangi National Trust

Published

A former employee of the organisation that looks after the Waitangi Treaty Grounds has pleaded guilty to charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

Wallace Tamamotu Te Ahuru (30) of Kerikeri pleaded guilty to two charges of ‘Obtaining by deception’ and seven charges of ‘Using forged documents’ at the Manukau District Court.

Mr Te Ahuru misappropriated about $1.2 million from the Waitangi National Trust Group while he was employed as its corporate services manager. In this role he was responsible for the financial administration of the trust. Mr Te Ahuru is believed to have acted alone in the offending.

The defendant used the money he stole for a variety of purposes, including travel and accommodation, luxury clothing, cosmetic surgery and the purchase of a vehicle.

Serious Fraud Office Director, Julie Read, said “Mr Te Ahuru deceived the custodian of one of the most historically significant places in New Zealand. His offending has caused reputational damage to the Waitangi National Trust which is the recipient of government grants and private donations.”

The defendant has been remanded in custody to reappear at the Manukau District Court for sentencing on 30 November.

ENDS

For further media information

Henry Acland
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

Note to editors

Background information

Waitangi National Trust and its subsidiary Waitangi Limited are together known as the Waitangi National Trust Group.

The purpose of Waitangi National Trust is to manage, administer and improve a 506 hectare estate, which includes the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Wallace Tamamotu Te Ahuru (30) was employed as the corporate services manager of Waitangi National Trust Group. (Mr Te Ahuru was employed by Waitangi National Trust from 17 September 2012 to 23 June 2016. He was employed by its corporate subsidiary from 23 June 2016 to 6 October 2017.) He was responsible in this role for all financial administration of the Waitangi National Trust Group. 

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. 

(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. 

257 Using forged documents

(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years who, knowing a document to be forged,—

(a) uses the document to obtain any property, privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration; or

(b) uses, deals with, or acts upon the document as if it were genuine; or

(c) causes any other person to use, deal with, or act upon it as if it were genuine.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a document made or altered outside New Zealand in a manner that would have amounted to forgery if the making or alteration had been done in New Zealand is to be regarded as a forged document.

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 @SFO_NZ