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Charges against directors of Capital + Merchant Finance

Media release

For immediate release
9 December 2010

SFO lays charges against directors of Capital + Merchant Finance

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) today arrested and laid six charges under the Crimes Act against one current and one former Director of Capital+ Merchant Finance Limited (C+MF).

The charges involve nearly $14.5M worth of related party lending dating back to 2002.

The two accused are Neal Medhurst Nicholls aged 55 and Wayne Leslie Douglas aged 57.

At the time C+MF was placed into receivership the company owed $167.1M to approximately 7,000 investors.

The charges concern loans of approximately $14.5M made between April 2002 and September 2004 to three companies that converted two Palmerston North high rise office blocks into student accommodation.

The SFO allege that as directors of C+MF they held investors’ funds subject to a special relationship with investors, and that they used their position to apply those funds in a manner inconsistent with that relationship.

The SFO also alleges that the directors falsely stated the true extent of related party lending in annual C+MF prospectuses and associated financial statements in July 2003 and September 2004.

SFO Chief Executive Adam Feeley said the charges relate to one discrete set of transactions.

“While we have completed investigations into these matters, the SFO is continuing to investigate a number of other transactions that are of serious concern to us.”

The SFO commenced the C+MF investigation in March 2010 after receiving a complaint from the C+MF receivers, Grant Thornton.

Mr Feeley said “This investigation, and the subsequent charges, demonstrate the speed with which SFO can act, even where the case is one of significant complexity and involves many of millions of dollars.”

The SFO has now laid serious Crimes Act charges against persons involved with a number of finance companies, including National Finance; Bridgecorp; Five Star Finance; and Capital + Merchant.

Mr Feeley said “The confidence and financial security of New Zealand investors will not be restored without thorough and timely investigations into all of these companies and, where appropriate, serious criminal charges will need to be laid.“

They were remanded on bail and will next appear on 16 December 2010.

ENDS

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