12 Dec 2014

Former SCF director escapes prison sentence

5:27 pm on 12 December 2014

The sole South Canterbury Finance director found guilty over misleading investors has today escaped a prison sentence.

From left: Edward Sullivan, Robert White and Lachie McLeod.

From left: Edward Sullivan, Robert White and Lachie McLeod. Photo: Mytchall Bransgrove

Edward Sullivan was found guilty in October on five out of nine fraud charges, after a five month trial that was the biggest in New Zealand history.

Today he was sentenced at the High Court in Timaru to 12 months home detention and 400 hours community service.

Sullivan's fellow director, Bob White and the company's former chief executive Lachie McLeod were found not guilty over the charges which stemmed from the 2010 collapse of the company.

This saw the Government pay out $1.6 billion to investors under the Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme.

Ahead of sentencing today, Crown lawyer Colin Carruthers QC said there were three characteristics to the 73-year-old's offending that justified a prison sentence of up to six-and-a-half years.

"It involved serious dishonesty, it was sustained over a period of time, and it was committed in order to induce the payment of significant sums."

Sullivan's lawyer, Pip Hall QC, said his client had suffered enough as a result of the charges which he had spent $2 million defending, meaning he had nothing left to retire on.

He said it was Sullivan's loyalty to the company's chairman, Allan Hubbard, that involved him being taken down paths he would not otherwise have travelled as he tried to bring the company back from the brink of collapse.

"Rather than being inherently dishonest, his loyalty led him to try to fix the unfixable in a way that he shouldn't have."

Mr Hall detailed the many good causes Sullivan had given his time to, including St John Ambulance.

76 character references for Sullivan

He read a character reference from Sullivan's daughter in which she said she wished there were more people in the community like her father and that he was a rare breed. She wished she was a little bit more like him.

At this point Sullivan became visibly upset and wiped tears from his eyes.

In sentencing him, Justice Heath made reference to the 76 people who had written character references in support of him and said he had never seen so many in all his years as a judge.

Justice Heath said Sullivan's dishonesty was driven by misguided loyalty to the company's former chairman, Allan Hubbard.

He did not ascribe any malevolent motive to him and was satisfied he was motivated by a desire to salvage the company and maintain his own and Mr Hubbard's reputation in the community.

Justice Heath said unlike Mr Hubbard, Sullivan had not benefited financially from any of the fraudulent transactions and there was no benefit to society from imprisoning him.

It is not yet clear if the Serious Fraud Office that brought the charges is planning to appeal the sentence.

A statement from it this afternoon said it was reviewing the matter.

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