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Former trustee pleads guilty to fraud mid-trial

24 May 2019

Former trustee of Far North Māori fund pleads guilty to fraud mid-trial

A former trustee of a Far North Māori land trust has admitted stealing more than $1 million from the trust.

Midway through his High Court trial, Stephen Henare (61) pleaded guilty to five counts of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ and one count of ‘Attempting to pervert the course of justice’. The charges were brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

Mr Henare had pleaded not guilty previously to all the charges but changed his plea yesterday, the fourth day of his trial in Auckland which was expected to last three weeks.

Mr Henare was a trustee of the Parengarenga 3G Trust (P3G Trust), which managed a 512-hectare commercial forest on Māori land in the Tai Tokerau District. The forest block has more than 400 beneficial owners.

With the involvement of his sister, Margaret Dixon, Mr Henare facilitated the transfer of P3G Trust’s funds into various other bank accounts, including personal accounts and family trusts.

Mr Henare was the instigator of the offending. He intentionally failed to deal with $1,083,897 of P3G Trust’s funds in accordance with the P3G Trust Order. In addition, he lied to the Māori Land Court in 2013 about the financial position of P3G Trust.

Mr Henare has been remanded on bail to reappear for sentencing at the Auckland High Court on 26 July.

Ms Dixon, also a former trustee of the P3G Trust, pleaded guilty last year to defrauding the trust. She was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention and ordered to pay $5,000 in reparation.

ENDS

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