New Zealand Law Society - Former trust chair guilty of fraud

Former trust chair guilty of fraud

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Sir Ralph Ngatata Love has been found guilty in Wellington High Court of a charge under section 240 of the Crimes Act 1961 of obtaining property by means of a deception.

Justice Lang has released his decision in R v Love [2016] NZHC 2046 after a three week trial. The prosecution was brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

The Serious Fraud Office says the prosecution related to a significant commercial property development project which was undertaken in Wellington. This involved land owned by the Wellington Tenths Trust of which Sir Ngatata Love was Chair.

The SFO alleged that Sir Ngatata arranged for himself and his partner, Lorraine Skiffington, to obtain control, for their own benefit, of a premium the prospective developers were prepared to pay to secure a leasehold interest in the property. This was done, the SFO alleged, without disclosure to, and in secret from, the remaining Trustees of the Wellington Tenths Trust. 

As a result of an agreement reached with the prospective developers, payments totaling $1,687,500 were made to a company associated with Ms Skiffington. These payments were concealed from the Wellington Tenths Trust.

Three defendants were charged in July 2013 in relation to the development and all had name suppression orders which were lifted at the beginning of Sir Ngatata's trial. Matene Love, Sir Ngatata's son, pleaded guilty to one charge under Section 4 of the Secret Commissions Act. He was sentenced on 29 October 2015 to six months' home detention. Lorraine Skiffington had her charges permanently stayed in August 2015 due to her ill-health.

The SFO says it acknowledges the Wellington Tenths Trust who cooperated fully during the process.

Sir Ngatata Love has been released on bail and will be sentenced on 6 October.

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