The former asset manager of a tax-payer funded disability trust has been sentenced to eight months of home detention and ordered to pay reparations of $164,929 for charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office.
Saul Brendon Roberts was sentenced today in the Auckland High Court. He had pleaded guilty earlier to all five charges he faced under section four of the Secret Commissions Act in relation to his work at Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust and the charitable trust Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority.
Mr Roberts was the former asset manager of Te Roopu and former trustee and employee of Te Kawerau.
While he was employed by Te Roopu from 2012 to 2014, Mr Roberts received about $160,000 in kickbacks from various suppliers to the disability trust, including auto repairs workshops owned by his co-defendant, Atish Narayan. At no stage did Mr Roberts tell anyone at the trust that the suppliers were paying him cash to obtain the trust’s business.
In total, suppliers to Te Roopu paid kickbacks to Mr 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.
Mr Roberts had also received about $45,000 in kickbacks in 2009 for withdrawing public submissions he lodged on behalf of Te Kawerau, which was set up to settle treaty claims, in opposition to a proposed change to a district plan. The company that made the payment was unaware Mr Roberts was acting without the knowledge and consent of his employer.
Saul Robert’s co-defendant, Atish Narayan, pleaded guilty to two charges under section three of the Secret Commissions Act, and one Crimes Act charge of ‘Obtaining by deception’ in August 2017. Mr Narayan owned two auto repair businesses which provided services to Te Roopu. Mr Narayan 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.
Mr Narayan was sentenced to six months’ home detention and ordered to pay $14,000 in reparation in October 2017.
SFO 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.”
Background to investigation
Saul Brendon Roberts (50) was the former asset manager for Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust (Te Roopu) and former trustee and employee of Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority (Te Kawerau).
Te Roopu is a publicly funded health provider based in Otahuhu, South Auckland. Te Roopu provides long-term residential health care for people with an intellectual disability who are unable to be supported in their home. Te Roopu owns a number of properties around the country and funding has been provided by the Ministry of Health, various District Health Boards, the Department of Corrections, the Accident Compensation Corporation, and the Ministry of Social Development.
Te Kawerau is a Charitable Trust established to benefit the people of Te Kawerau a Maki and settle that tribe’s treaty claims.
Secret Commissions Act offences:
Section 4 Acceptance of such gifts by agent an offence
(1) Every agent is guilty of an offence who corruptly accepts or obtains, or agrees or offers to accept or attempts to obtain, or solicits from any person, for himself or for any other person, any gift or other consideration as an inducement or reward for doing or forbearing to do, or for having done or forborne to do, any act in relation to the principal’s affairs or business (whether such act is within the scope of the agent’s authority or the course of his employment as agent or not), or for showing or having shown favour or disfavour to any person in relation to the principal’s affairs or business.
(2) Every agent who diverts, obstructs, or interferes with the proper course of the affairs or business of his principal, or fails to use due diligence in the prosecution of such affairs or business, with intent to obtain for himself or for any other person any gift or other consideration from any person interested in such affairs or business, shall be deemed to have corruptly solicited a consideration within the meaning of this section.
About the SFO
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act.
The SFO is the lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex financial crime, including bribery and corruption.
The presence of an agency dedicated to white collar crime is integral to New Zealand’s reputation for transparency, integrity, fair-mindedness and low levels of corruption.
This work contributes to a productive and prosperous New Zealand and the SFO’s collaborative efforts with international partners also reduce the serious harm that corrupt business practices do to the global economy.
The SFO has two operational teams: the Evaluation and Intelligence team and an Investigations team.
The SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.
Part 1 of the SFO Act provides that it may act where the Director “has reason to suspect that an investigation into the affairs of any person may disclose serious or complex fraud.”
Part 2 of the SFO Act provides the SFO with more extensive powers where: “…the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed…”
In considering whether a matter involves serious or complex fraud, the Director may, among other things, have regard to:
the suspected nature and consequences of the fraud and/or;
the suspected scale of the fraud and/or;
the legal, factual and evidential complexity of the matter and/or;
any relevant public interest considerations.
The SFO’s Annual Report 2017 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Statement of Intent 2014-2018 sets out the SFO’s strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at www.sfo.govt.nz