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Owners of Maori land lose Trust money to fraudsters

Media release
12 October 2017

Owners of Maori land lose Trust money to fraudsters

A brother and sister have been charged in relation to a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecution.

Stephen Henare (60) and Margaret Dixon (59) face Crimes Act charges of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ in relation to their roles as trustees for the Parengarenga 3G Trust. Mr Henare faces six charges while Ms Dixon faces five charges. Mr Henare appeared in the Auckland District Court today and has been remanded on bail. Ms Dixon failed to appear.

Parengarenga 3G is a 511.83 hectare forestry block of Maori land located in the Taitokerau District in the Far North. The Parengarenga 3G forest is managed by the Parengarenga 3G Trust. In June 2012 the defendants and five others were appointed as Trustees of the Parengarenga 3G Trust, in place of the Maori Trustee. In August 2012 approximately $1.1 million, intended primarily for the management of the land and the forest for the benefit of the owners, was transferred from the Maori Trustee to the Parengarenga 3G Trust bank accounts. A further $54,480 was also obtained by the Trust from the sale of carbon credits.

The SFO alleges that between August 2012 and January 2014 a series of unauthorised payments were made from the Parengarenga 3G Trust bank accounts to the defendants, leaving debts due for the care of the forest unpaid. By January 2014 there was only $13.41 left of the funds.

It is alleged that Mr Henare, with the involvement of Ms Dixon, intentionally failed to deal with $934,270.30 of the Trust’s funds in accordance with the Parengarenga 3G Trust Order, by transferring significant sums of money into various other bank accounts, including their personal accounts and those of their respective family trusts. It is further alleged that Mr Henare intentionally failed to deal with an additional amount of $149,627 in accordance with the Parengarenga 3G Trust Order, without the involvement of Ms Dixon.

SFO Director, Julie Read said, “As trustees, Mr Henare and Ms Dixon were kaitiaki, guardians. They were required to deal with the property in accordance with the requirements of Parengarenga 3G Trust Order and in doing so to ensure the forest thrived for the benefit of all. The SFO believes their fraudulent activity has jeopardised an asset which was meant to benefit generations to come.”

The defendants will next appear in the Auckland District Court on 21 November.

ENDS

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