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Donna Grant pleads guilty to million-dollar fraud


16 December 2019

A prominent Māori performing arts educator has admitted defrauding a tertiary education provider and a Crown agency of approximately $1.25 million.

Donna Mariana Grant (61) appeared today in the Rotorua High Court where she pleaded guilty to three charges of ‘Dishonestly using documents’ and a single charge of ‘Obtaining by deception’. The charges were brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

Mrs Grant used her position in several organisations to fraudulently obtain funding from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and the Tertiary Education Commission.

The Director of the SFO, Julie Read, said, “Mrs Grant abused her position of authority and the trust of her colleagues to misappropriate a significant amount of public funds. Although the defendant did not use the funds to benefit herself financially, her offending was nonetheless criminal in nature and risked the reputation of the institutions she represented.”

The defendant has been remanded on bail to reappear in the Rotorua High Court for sentencing on 7 February.


Background information

Donna Mariana Grant (61) has a background in education, particularly in Māori performing arts in and around the Te Arawa region.

Mrs Grant held numerous prominent positions with charitable organisations and in the education sector generally between 2010 and 2014. She was a trustee of the Te Arawa Kapa Charitable Trust, a member of the board of trustees for the New Zealand Warriors Foundation, as well as the executive director of a private training establishment, Manaakitanga Aotearoa Trust.

Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi is a tertiary education provider funded by the Tertiary Education Commission based in Whakatane.

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.
Section 240 Obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception
(1) Every one is guilty of obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception who, by any deception and without claim of right,-
(a) obtains ownership or possession of, or control over, any property, or any privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration, directly or indirectly; or
(b) in incurring any debt or liability, obtains credit; or
(c) induces or causes any other person to deliver over, execute, make, accept, endorse, destroy, or alter any document or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage; or
(d) causes loss to any other person.
(1A) 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 or thing capable of being used to derive a pecuniary advantage knowing that, by deception and without claim of right, the document or thing was, or was caused to be, delivered, executed, made, accepted, endorsed, or altered.
(2) In this section, deception means-
(a) a false representation, whether oral, documentary, or by conduct, where the person making the representation intends to deceive any other person and-
(i) knows that it is false in a material particular; or
(ii) is reckless as to whether it is false in a material particular; or
(b) an omission to disclose a material particular, with intent to deceive any person, in circumstances where there is a duty to disclose it; or
(c) a fraudulent device, trick, or stratagem used with intent to deceive any person.

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 the 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 2019 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Integrated Statement of Strategic Intent 2016-2020 sets out the SFO’s strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at www.sfo.govt.nz

The SFO Twitter feed is @SFO_NZ

ends

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