Owners of Maori land lose Trust money to fraudsters

Published

A brother and sister have been charged in relation to a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecution.

Stephen Henare (60) and Margaret Dixon (59) face Crimes Act charges of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ in relation to their roles as trustees for the Parengarenga 3G Trust. Mr Henare faces six charges while Ms Dixon faces five charges. Mr Henare appeared in the Auckland District Court today and has been remanded on bail. Ms Dixon failed to appear. 

Parengarenga 3G is a 511.83 hectare forestry block of Maori land located in the Taitokerau District in the Far North. The Parengarenga 3G forest is managed by the Parengarenga 3G Trust. In June 2012 the defendants and five others were appointed as Trustees of the Parengarenga 3G Trust, in place of the Maori Trustee. In August 2012 approximately $1.1 million, intended primarily for the management of the land and the forest for the benefit of the owners, was transferred from the Maori Trustee to the Parengarenga 3G Trust bank accounts.  A further $54,480 was also obtained by the Trust from the sale of carbon credits.

The SFO alleges that between August 2012 and January 2014 a series of unauthorised payments were made from the Parengarenga 3G Trust bank accounts to the defendants, leaving debts due for the care of the forest unpaid. By January 2014 there was only $13.41 left of the funds.

It is alleged that Mr Henare, with the involvement of Ms Dixon, intentionally failed to deal with $934,270.30 of the Trust’s funds in accordance with the Parengarenga 3G Trust Order, by transferring significant sums of money into various other bank accounts, including their personal accounts and those of their respective family trusts. It is further alleged that Mr Henare intentionally failed to deal with an additional amount of $149,627 in accordance with the Parengarenga 3G Trust Order, without the involvement of Ms Dixon. 

SFO Director, Julie Read said, “As trustees, Mr Henare and Ms Dixon were kaitiaki, guardians. They were required to deal with the property in accordance with the requirements of Parengarenga 3G Trust Order and in doing so to ensure the forest thrived for the benefit of all. The SFO believes their fraudulent activity has jeopardised an asset which was meant to benefit generations to come.” 

The defendants will next appear in the Auckland District Court on 21 November.

ENDS

Issued by

Andrea Linton
Serious Fraud Office
027 705 4550

Note to editors

Background information

Parengarenga 3G is a 511.83 hectare forestry block of Maori land located in the Taitokerau District in the Far North of New Zealand.  The land and its assets are governed by the P3G Trust. There are hundreds of beneficial owners of the land.

Mr Henare and Ms Dixon have been removed as trustees of the P3G Trust.

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.

About the SFO

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act.

The SFO is the lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex financial crime, including bribery and corruption.

The presence of an agency dedicated to white collar crime is integral to New Zealand’s reputation for transparency, integrity, fair-mindedness and low levels of corruption.

This work contributes to a productive and prosperous New Zealand and the SFO’s collaborative efforts with international partners also reduce the serious harm that corrupt business practices do to the global economy.

The SFO has 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 2016 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

The SFO Twitter feed is @FraudSeriousNZ