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Guilty plea to SFO dishonesty charges

06 September 2016

Edward Errol Johnston, a former sole practitioner, has pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court to three Crimes Act charges of dishonestly taking or using a document, brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

Mr Johnston, who was adjudged bankrupt on 20 November 2012 and struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors on 26 July 2013. He was censured by a Law Society lawyers' standards committee in 2014 for an unrelated matter. He will appear for sentencing on 10 November 2016.

The Serious Fraud Office says that in December 2011 and January 2012, Mr Johnston owned properties in the Auckland area and had fallen into arrears on his loan repayments to his bank. 

When faced with a requirement to reduce his existing debt, Mr Johnston manipulated the system. He submitted false Sale and Purchase Agreements to his bank. The bank accepted the fictitious transactions. 

The Serious Fraud Office says that in reality, the properties were either sold for a higher price than he had stated, or transferred to another trust and refinanced with a loan from another bank. In January 2012 Mr Johnston submitted a false Statement of Assets and Liabilities to the bank when obtaining the refinanced loan.

"These offences occurred as a result of an attempt to avoid a troubled financial situation," Serious Fraud Office Director Julie Read says.  

"The reality is that in deceiving the bank Mr Johnston has placed himself in a much more serious position which will result in a criminal conviction.  Such a course should never be considered as a viable option and the SFO will prosecute all serious fraud matters brought to our attention to protect other investors and New Zealand's reputation as a corruption free market."

Last updated on the 16th September 2019