Strategic Planning Group Director pleads guilty to SFO charges

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Strategic Planning Group Director pleads guilty to SFO charges

Andrew Hrothgar Robinson (42) has entered guilty pleas in the Auckland High Court today to charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Following investigations by the SFO and the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) into the activities of Auckland based company Strategic Planning Group Limited (SPG), the SFO filed five charges of theft by a person in a special relationship and one charge of dishonestly using a document against the former financial adviser Andrew Robinson in September 2013. Today Mr Robinson pleaded guilty to all of those charges.

Mr Robinson was a director of Strategic Planning Group Limited (SPG).

Mr Robinson stole investor funds of approximately $2.7 million to repay the investments of other investors and to pay for some business and personal expenses between 2010 and 2012. Mr Robinson also dishonestly used a document by making false statements in various investment reports to hide the true picture from investors.

SFO Director, Julie Read said, "The SFO is pleased that this matter has been resolved by a plea of guilty. The investors in this matter took appropriate precautions and reasonably believed they were dealing with an honest advisor. Unfortunately, this is not always enough to protect people from fraud as has proved to be the case in this instance."

Mr Robinson has been remanded in custody and will appear for a disputed facts hearing on 2 June. A sentencing date is yet to be set.

ENDS 

For further information

Andrea Linton
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

Note to editors

Background to investigation

Strategic Planning Group was incorporated on 13 December 2004 and for approximately eight years provided financial, accounting, mortgage broking and risk and insurance services to clients.

The investigation into SPG began in December 2012 when the FMA received a complaint with allegations about Mr Robinson's management of client funds through SPG. The FMA referred the Crimes Act issues to the SFO and the agencies conducted parallel investigations.

The FMA has laid separate charges under Financial Markets legislation in relation to Mr Robinson and one other person that will be heard later this year.

Crimes Act offences

Section 220 Theft by person in special relationship
(1) This section applies to any person who has received or is in possession of, or has control over, any property on terms or in circumstances that the person knows require the person-
(a) to account to any other person for the property, or for any proceeds arising from the property; or
(b) to deal with the property, or any proceeds arising from the property, in accordance with the requirements of any other person.

(2) Every one to whom subsection (1) applies commits theft who intentionally fails to account to the other person as so required or intentionally deals with the property, or any proceeds of the property, otherwise than in accordance with those requirements.

(3) This section applies whether or not the person was required to deliver over the identical property received or in the person's possession or control.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (1), it is a question of law whether the circumstances required any person to account or to act in accordance with any requirements.

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 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 operational teams; the Evaluation and Intelligence team along with two investigative teams.

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 2014 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