Hope for closure over Citifleet fraud

Sue Bidrose
Sue Bidrose
The Dunedin City Council hopes to turn the page on the $1.5 million Citifleet fraud after taking a public hammering in the eyes of ratepayers.

Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose expressed that hope after the police yesterday released their final report into the Citifleet investigation, which concluded no charges would be laid over the fraud.

Dr Bidrose told the Otago Daily Times the outcome was ''disappointing'' but hopefully signalled a turning point after a difficult period in the council's history.

''It's been a hard 18 months for the organisation. The council is full of really good, hard-working people, working for the good of the city, and yet that's not been the focus for a long time.

''This fraud has been the focus and it's been difficult for us all as good public servants. Concluding this investigation means we can put the fraud behind us.''

The police investigation was launched last year after Deloitte found former Citifleet team leader Brent Bachop to be at the centre of the decade-long fraud.

He was found to have sold 152 council vehicles, while pocketing proceeds, and police first announced in June this year there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone else in relation to the fraud.

That followed the death of Mr Bachop in May last year, days after being approached about irregularities within his department.

Police had continued work to finalise their Citifleet report, despite announcing its conclusions in June, and released the finished version yesterday.

In it, Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis said the most appropriate criminal charge would have been one of ''receiving''.

To lay charges, police would have to be confident those involved had knowingly received stolen goods, or acted recklessly as to whether or not the property was stolen, the report indicated.

Police had spoken to the buyers of almost all the missing council vehicles, but all had said they believed Mr Bachop - who was not named in the police report - had the authority to sell the vehicles.

They also believed they were paying market value, and that the money was going to the council, Det Snr Sgt Inglis' report said.

''There is no evidence in this case that any party fits within the criminal definition of receiving,'' he concluded.

Dr Bidrose accepted the police investigation had been ''very thorough'', but said of the outcome: ''I think everyone in this organisation is disappointed about that.

''There appeared to be people who directly profited from the fraud who turned a blind eye.''

The discovery of the fraud had prompted the resignations of three senior council staff, while two other junior staff lost their jobs.

None were directly implicated in the fraud, but Dr Bidrose said yesterday other staff had been unfairly tarnished.

A private prosecution by the council had been considered, but ruled out after the council saw the ''clarity'' of the police report.

It showed any such action would have been ''expensive'' and ''extremely unlikely to have any success'', Dr Bidrose said.

The council had already received a $1 million payout from its insurer, QBE, and the company was engaged in civil action against unnamed parties in an effort to recoup some of its costs, she said.

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