New Zealand Law Society - SFO condemns ‘deliberate acts of fraud’

SFO condemns ‘deliberate acts of fraud’

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The second and final defendant in a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) case has pleaded guilty to fraud in the Auckland High Court.

Saul Roberts and Atish Narayan were charged in January 2017 under the Crimes Act 1961 and the Secret Commissions Act 1910.

“Deliberate acts of fraud against a publicly funded health care provider and a charitable trust are completely unacceptable and a matter of significant public concern. The SFO’s role is to prosecute such matters on behalf of New Zealanders in order to keep these organisations free from corruption,” says SFO Director Julie Read.

The SFO says that Mr Roberts, the former Asset Manager for Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust (Te Roopu) and employee of Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority (Te Kawerau), faced five charges under section four of the Secret Commissions Act and pleaded guilty to all charges.

While acting as a Trustee at Te Kawerau in 2009, Mr Roberts received a secret payment of $45,000 in return for withdrawing public submissions he had lodged on behalf of Te Kawerau in opposition to a proposed change to a District Plan. The company that made the payment was unaware that Mr Roberts was acting without the knowledge and consent of his employer.

In 2012, while employed by Te Roopu, Mr Roberts received secret commission payments in return for contracting work to certain suppliers to Te Roopu, including businesses owned by his co-defendant, Atish Narayan. Mr Roberts received a certain percentage of each invoice as a cash kickback.

Mr Narayan, a supplier of goods and services to Te Roopu, pleaded guilty to two charges under s 3 of the Secret Commissions Act as well as one Crimes Act charge of ‘Obtaining by deception’ in August 2017. Mr Narayan owned two auto repair businesses which provided services to Te Roopu. He made undisclosed payments to Mr Roberts, in return for Mr Roberts arranging for vehicles owned by Te Roopu to be serviced or repaired at his businesses.

Te Roopu, a public health care provider for people with intellectual disabilities, and Te Kawerau, set up to settle treaty claims, were the victims of the fraud.

Mr Narayan was sentenced to six months’ home detention and ordered to pay $14,000 in reparation in October.

Mr Roberts will be sentenced on 27 February.

Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust (Te Roopu) is a publicly funded health provider based in South Auckland. It provides long-term residential health care for people with an intellectual disability who are unable to be supported in their home.

Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority (Te Kawerau) is a Charitable Trust established to benefit the people of Te Kawerau a Maki and settle that tribe’s treaty claims.