Prison sentences handed down to a corrupt former council executive and his associate today reflect the serious nature of their crime and the widespread harm that can be caused by corruption, says the Serious Fraud Office.
Former Westland District Council Group Manager of District Assets Vivek Goel was sentenced to three years and eight months’ imprisonment in the Christchurch High Court today after being found guilty in December 2022 on multiple corruption and deception charges brought by the SFO.
His associate, Amar Singh of ANA Group Limited, was sentenced to three years and seven months’ imprisonment after being found guilty of deception, obstructing an SFO investigation and paying $70,000 in bribes in exchange for being awarded a series of asset management contracts valued at almost $500,000.
SFO Director Karen Chang says the sentence is an appropriate reflection of the serious nature of Mr Goel and Mr Singh’s actions.
“Corruption is an insidious crime which is incredibly corrosive if left unchecked. It is important we send a clear message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated in our society,” says Ms Chang.
Mr Goel oversaw procurement for council assets and abused his position to ensure a number of contracts were awarded to companies he had relationships with outside of work. He gave advice, helped draft tenders and shared confidential information, while going to great lengths to hide the assistance he was providing. He also received bribes from Mr Singh for his role in awarding Mr Singh’s company asset management contracts.
“This investigation involved some of the most technically complex forensic analysis we’ve undertaken and the skill of our forensics team was absolutely crucial. Our electronic forensic investigators, forensic accountants and investigators analysed significant amounts of evidence to unravel this complex offending,” says Ms Chang.
Contracts affected by Mr Goel’s offending included a contract to upgrade the Kumara and Whataroa Water Treatment Plants which was awarded to Techno Economic Services (TES) NZ.
The company’s sole director was Neha Bubna, who at the time was an Auckland cake decorator with no relevant background experience. She was sentenced to 10 months home detention in February after pleading guilty to one charge of obtaining by deception.
A contract to build a multi-million-dollar Wastewater Treatment Plant at Franz Josef was awarded to Techno Economic Services (TES India). This project did not go ahead and was subsequently subject to an enquiry by the Auditor-General.
“These were critical infrastructure projects which had implications for the health and wellbeing of the local community,” says Ms Chang.
“As New Zealand prepares to rebuild following the Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle, this is a timely reminder of the importance of having clear internal controls in place around procurement, understanding the forms corruption can take and recognising red flags.
“Our Counter Fraud Centre will continue to work with the public sector to offer support in this area and the SFO will continue to take cases which threaten the wellbeing of New Zealanders.”