10 Jul 2015

Wine merchant sentenced over fraud charges

3:38 pm on 10 July 2015

A former All Blacks coach, a sports broadcaster, and a high-profile businessman have all written to the High Court, backing a man sentenced for fraud charges.

Former wine merchant, Peter John Scutts, was sentenced to eight months home detention when he appeared at the High Court in Auckland today.

The 59-year-old was found guilty of 17 fraud charges relating to taking thousands of dollars in secret kick-backs for wine deals.

The offending happened while Scutts worked as a consultant for the New Zealand Wine Company.

He advised the company to supply wine to an Australian outfit, known as the Liquor Marketing Group.

But what he did not tell the New Zealand Wine Company was that he had signed an agreement with the Liquor Marketing Group that saw him get a dollar for each case of wine sold.

Scutts later became CEO of the New Zealand Wine Company.

Justice Peters said Scutts made approximately $64,000 from the kickbacks.

Crown prosecutor Rachael Reed said as far as breaches of trust go, Scutts' offending was in the worst category because of his senior position.

She said the offending was motivated by greed and a sense of self-entitlement and Scutts had showed no remorse.

Scutts' lawyer John Billington QC said his client was sorry for what he had done and hoped to pay the community back by working as a volunteer for an un-named organisation.

He read from a letter written by Scutts in which he said he now realised money was at the root of all evil and he hoped to one day earn just enough to live on.

Mr Billington said as a fraudster, his client would not be able to find new employment and that was a punishment in itself.

But Scutts still has support in high places.

Justice Peters said she had character references from former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry, sports broadcaster Murray Deaker and high-profile businessman Michael Stiassny.

She read portions from the references in court.

One said Scutts had proved himself as an unbiassed and excellent trustee. It also credited him for success in the unnamed trust.

Another said Scutts was well respected and his thoughts valued.

A further referee said they would be happy to work with Scutts again and found he had integrity and valued transparency.

In sentencing, Justice Peters said she took into account his lack of previous convictions and his work for charity.

She said the New Zealand Wine Company did not lose any money in the deal - but she said that did not help Scutts.

The judge said the company deserved his undivided loyalty.

She said home detention was not a light option and the Scutts family were about to find that out.