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Jailed for betrayal of colleagues and taxpayers

Media Release

21 February 2017

Jailed for betrayal of colleagues and taxpayers

Joanne Harrison appeared in the Manukau District Court today and has received a sentence of imprisonment of three years and seven months in relation to a fraud committed during her employment at the Ministry of Transport.

The former General Manager of Organisational Development pleaded guilty in November to Crimes Act charges of ‘Dishonestly taking or using a document’ laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Following questions raised by the Ministry of Transport’s management team, an internal investigation found that suspicious payments had been made to various entities and the matter was referred to the SFO.

The SFO found that Ms Harrison and entities associated with her obtained approximately $726,000 from the Ministry of Transport.

SFO Director, Julie Read said, “The SFO gives a priority to cases concerning the loss of public money as this affects not only the government entity concerned but all New Zealanders.”

ENDS

Background to investigation

Joanne Harrison worked for the Ministry of Transport from April 2011 until her employment was terminated in 2016. Her role included responsibility for change, people and development; communication and external relations; administration and ministerial support; knowledge management and information and the shares services programme management.

Crimes Act offences
Section 228 Dishonestly taking or using document

(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration,—

(a) dishonestly and without claim of right, takes or obtains any document; or

(b) dishonestly and without claim of right, uses or attempts to use any document.

(2) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years who, without reasonable excuse, sells, transfers, or otherwise makes available any document knowing that—

(a) the document was, dishonestly and without claim of right, taken, obtained, or used; and

(b) the document was dealt with in the manner specified in paragraph (a) with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration.

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 three operational teams; the Evaluation and Intelligence team along with two investigative teams.

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 2016 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


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