Warren Pickett, 63, a former accountant from Waipawa, appeared in the Napier District Court today facing eight charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office alleging fraud, false statements by promoter, and breaches of the Securities Act. The charges follow the collapse of his finance companies, Waipawa Finance Company Limited and Waipawa Holdings Limited, of which he was sole director and a principal shareholder. The companies went into liquidation in August 2008 owing about 220 investors about $20 million, including accumulated interest of approximately $12m.
Mr Pickett entered no plea and was remanded to a further appearance on 8 April at 2pm. In Court, defence counsel, Jonathan Krebs, indicated that guilty pleas will be entered at that appearance.
The SFO has laid 3 charges alleging that Mr Pickett misappropriated investors’ money totalling approximately $3.7m between 1 January 1987 and 30 August 2008. The maximum penalty is 7 years imprisonment on each charge.
Mr Pickett is also charged with three charges of false statements by a promoter. The SFO alleges that when he wrote to investors on 1 October 2007 he said to them that Waipawa Holdings Limited had significant reserves in a combination of deposits and readily realisable securities with back up facilities, that these reserves had increased over recent times and that the risk management strategies long in place had readily coped. The SFO says that Mr Pickett knew all these statements were false and that he made them with intent to deceive investors and to induce them to put or keep money in Waipawa Holdings. The book total of investors’ deposits including accumulated interest at that date was approximately $17.8m.
The SFO also alleges that on 31 March 2008 he wrote further to the investors making false statements that the position was not materially different from the position as at 1 October, with large reserves available to meet withdrawals. At that date, the book total of investors’ deposits, including accumulated interest, was approximately $18m. The maximum penalty is ten years imprisonment on each charge.
Mr Pickett faces two charges under the Securities Act. The SFO alleges that Mr Pickett’s companies offered securities without a registered prospectus, trust deed, appointment of a trustee or investment statements, as required by the Securities Act. The maximum penalty on each charge is $300,000 and $10,000 for every day the offending continues.
Mr Pickett has cooperated with the Serious Fraud Office in its investigation.
The Serious Fraud Office acknowledges the assistance of the Securities Commission in its investigation.