27 Mar 2018

Former manager convicted of fraud is sentenced to home detention

1:22 pm on 27 March 2018

A former assets manager for a publicly funded health provider who pleaded guilty to fraud has been sentenced to eight months home detention at the Auckland High Court.

Exterior of the High Court in Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Saul Roberts, pleaded guilty to five charges under section four of the Secret Commissions Act earlier this year.

Justice Woodhouse also ordered Roberts to repay $164,900 to Te Roopu Taurima.

Roberts was the former assets manager for the trust and received secret payments in return for contracting work to certain suppliers of the trust.

In 2009 as a trustee for Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority Roberts received a secret payment of $45,000.

This was to withdraw public submissions he had lodged on behalf of the tribal authority in opposition to a proposed change to a District Plan.

In total, suppliers to Te Roopu paid kickbacks to Roberts to secure about $1.5 million of the trust's business.

The trust is a public health care provider for people with intellectual disabilities, and has received funding from the Ministry of Health and other government agencies.

While Roberts was employed by Te Roopu from 2012 to 2014, he received about $160,000 in kickbacks from various suppliers to the disability trust, including auto repairs workshops owned by his co-defendant, Atish Narayan.

Narayan owned two auto repair businesses which provided services to Te Roopu.

He made undisclosed payments to Roberts, in return for Roberts arranging for vehicles owned by Te Roopu to be serviced or repaired at his businesses.

Narayan was sentenced to six months' home detention and ordered to pay $14,000 in reparations in October 2017.

Serious Fraud Office director, Julie Read, said Mr Roberts illegally exploited his employment positions for personal financial gain.

"This type of corruption undermines these kinds of trusts which is a matter of public concern. The role of the SFO is to prosecute such matters on behalf of New Zealanders in order to keep organisations free from fraud and corruption."