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Ramni Kumar (45) has entered a guilty plea in the Auckland District Court to 10 charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Guilty plea in mortgage fraud prosecution

Ramni Kumar (45) has entered a guilty plea in the Auckland District Court to 10 charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Ms Kumar and an associate Vicki Ravana Letele (32) faced 10 joint charges under Section 228 of the Crimes Act for dishonestly using a document. The charges related to 10 property transactions undertaken during the second half of 2010. Ms Letele also faces one additional charge under Section 228 alone.

The total value of the fraud is $3.9 million.

Ms Kumar has admitted using false documentation to obtain mortgage finance for low income families who would not otherwise have been able to obtain finance. Ms Kumar benefited by arranging for her (and allegedly, her associate's) contacts to make the initial purchase of the properties and then on-sell them to the mortgage recipients, thus generating a profit.

SFO Director, Julie Read noted that the SFO had some concerns about the potential for more incidents of mortgage fraud in the current market.

"A market with high demand for properties and rapidly rising prices creates opportunities for individuals to exploit vulnerable buyers. Lenders and buyers need to be alert to this risk," she said.

Ms Kumar will reappear for sentencing on 11 March 2014.

ENDS

For further information

Andrea Linton
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

Note to editors

Background to investigation

Vicky Ravana Letele was the sole director/shareholder of Focus Property Investment Ltd (Focus). On 9 July 2011 she resigned her directorship the company was placed into liquidation on the 31 January 2012.

Ramni Kumar was an associate of Ms Letele.

Focus was established to broker the selling and arranging of mortgages for first home buyers on low income.

Crimes Act offences

Section 228 Dishonestly taking or using document
Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration,-
(a) dishonestly and without claim of right, takes or obtains any document; or
(b) dishonestly and without claim of right, uses or attempts to use any document.

About the SFO

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act in response to the collapse of financial markets in New Zealand at that time.

The SFO's role is the detection, investigation and prosecution of serious or complex financial crime. The SFO's focus is on investigating and prosecuting criminal cases that will have a real effect on:

  • business and investor confidence in our financial markets and economy
  • public confidence in our justice system and public service
  • New Zealand's international business reputation.

The SFO operates three investigative teams:

  • Evaluation and Intelligence;
  • Financial Markets and Corporate Fraud; and
  • Fraud and Corruption.

The SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.

Part I 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 II 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..."

The SFO's Annual Report 2013 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Statement of Intent 2013-2016 sets out the SFO's three year strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at: www.sfo.govt.nz(external link)