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The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has welcomed a decision by the High Court to dismiss an appeal by the former head of a government funded charity found guilty of stealing funds from the charity she helped establish.

Former Pacific Island Safety and Prevention Project head Betty Sio was found guilty in March 2023 on two charges of dishonestly using a document to steal funds from the charity where she served as Chief Executive.

SFO Director Karen Chang said, "Fraud that targets or disproportionately harms a particularly vulnerable community or group is a focus area for the Serious Fraud Office. This type of offending can be incredibly harmful to communities where trust in community leadership and institutions can be destroyed.”

“Misappropriating government funding can also undermine the government's efforts and our prosecution in this case underscores our commitment to taking action where we find this conduct.”

The Project provided prevention, education, counselling and development services to the Pacific Island community in Auckland.

Ms Sio helped to establish the charity and was Chief Executive from 2009 until 2015 when it closed. By 2014 it was receiving around $2.5 million in Government funding per year to provide domestic violence prevention services.

Ms Sio and former operations manager Tapualii Raewyn Uitime were largely responsible for managing the use of this funding.

Between them they stole around $260,000. Ms Uitime stole about $216,000 by creating fake invoices from suppliers and authorising cash cheques to pay them. Ms Sio benefited from the proceeds of two cashed cheques, stealing about $44,000.

Ms Sio was sentenced to a fine of $3,000. Ms Uitime pleaded guilty in July 2020 to three charges of forgery and six representative charges of dishonestly using a document. She was sentenced in October 2020 to two years and one month imprisonment.

About the SFO 
The SFO is responsible for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex fraud, including bribery and corruption in New Zealand. With a focus on maintaining integrity and trust in the financial system, the SFO has developed strategic areas of focus to ensure it has the greatest impact with the cases it takes in. These are reviewed and updated every 12-18 months.

SFO Strategic Areas of Focus(external link)