CEO steps down after fake degree revealed

Michael Vukevic
Michael Vukevic
The chief executive of a legal firm stepped down soon after it was discovered he did not have the law degree he claimed to have.

Michael Vukcevic left Auckland firm Baldwins, which specialises in intellectual property law, for "personal reasons"according to a press release in November.

The 43-year-old is described as an experienced business leader with a "dynamic career"who has worked closely with Government agencies negotiating free trade agreements in the Middle East.

A Herald investigation can reveal that Mr Vukcevic does not have a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) as stated on the curriculum vitae he submitted for the job two years earlier.

His CV submitted to a recruitment company states Mr Vukcevic obtained the LLB and a Bachelor of Arts after studying at Victoria University of Wellington between 1989 and 1992.

However, questions were raised inside Baldwins about the bona fides of the qualifications and the firm conducted an internal investigation into his background.

The inquiry discovered that Mr Vukcevic did not complete the legal qualification as claimed and he left the Queen St law firm in October.

Alison Munro, an administration manager at Victoria University, also confirmed in an email to the Herald that Mr Vukcevic has only a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Economic History, granted in December 1993.

"Mr Vukcevic has not completed a Bachelor of Laws at Victoria University of Wellington," said Ms Munro.

A press release from the firm, which has 10 partners and 30 lawyers or patent attorneys, announcing that Mr Vukcevic had "stepped down for personal reasons"was not issued until mid November.

Questions about Mr Vukcevic's qualifications and the nature of his departure from Baldwins were not answered by his former colleagues.

Philip Thoreau, a senior partner at Baldwins, responded to repeated questions from the Herald with the same answer as the November press release.

"All I am able to say is that he left for personal reasons. I'm sorry, I can't help you there."

Mr Vukcevic's profile on the Baldwins' website described him as an experienced business leader with a "dynamic career"including being the chief executive of Pharmaceutical Solutions Ltd, a clinical research organisation that manages pharmaceutical and medical device clinical trials across New Zealand and Australia.

He also worked at accounting firm Ernst and Young and dairy giant Fonterra, and is the current chairman of the New Zealand Middle East Business Council, which works closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise to develop business opportunities in the region.

Mr Vukcevic, as the chairman, helped organise a business delegation spearheaded by Trade Minister Tim Groser to the Middle East as part of free trade agreement negotiations potentially worth billions of dollars to the New Zealand export market.

He also spoke alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully at the launch of the "GCC Strategy"- a Government document designed to "open doors"to the Middle East - which was attended by diplomats, government officials and business leaders at the Cloud last June.

Mr Vukcevic was previously on the board of Transparency International New Zealand, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promote transparency, accountability and integrity in Government and civil society.

He did not respond to Herald phone calls, emails and letters asking for comment.

A woman who answered the phone at his North Shore home said: "Excuse me? Are you freaking kidding me? What has that got to do ... what business is that of yours?

"Well, I'm sorry. Michael is unavailable. And I don't have a number you can reach him on."

Mr Vukcevic has not been investigated by police in relation to his actions and has not been charged with any crime.

Dishonestly taking or using a document with "intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration"is an offence under section 228 of the Crimes Act.

 

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