Pair evade police for six years

Simone Wright and Paul Bennett also go by the names of Sarah and David Kite.
Simone Wright and Paul Bennett also go by the names of Sarah and David Kite.
New Zealand's BMX golden girl Sarah Walker was on the radar of a conman -- now wanted by police -- who was keen to manage the talented rider.

Paul Bennett, 54, and wife Simone Wright, 40, are at the centre of a major police alert after a Christchurch millionaire alleged the couple emptied his bank accounts of $400,000.

Police admit they have no idea where the couple are but the Herald on Sunday can reveal the pair have evaded capture from New Zealand authorities on serious charges for the past six years.

Police and Customs will not say how the two have managed to skip between countries without raising the suspicions of border officials.

The pair have smooth-talked their way around the world, including into the cockpit of the Hollywood A-lister Russell Crowe's private helicopter.

When police issued an alert in 2008, the couple were wanted on charges including theft and serious fraud in Australia and New Zealand, and an alleged sex assault on a young girl in Auckland.

The motocross community is also fuming after allegedly losing around $100,000 to the self-styled "team manager".

After an absence of six years, Morrinsville-born Bennett and his TV personality wife returned to New Zealand with new identities, selling Rolex watches on TradeMe and brokering helicopter deals.

The Herald on Sunday was told Bennett, using another alias, tried to lure Walker into his management fold in 2008 when she was on the cusp of becoming famous.

Motocross publicist Alan Henderson, who shared an office with Bennett for six months, said the Olympian met Bennett to discuss a potential management deal.

"This was in 2008 and she was looking at the big picture.

"It fell over because he disappeared suddenly in the dead of night with his wife from his Northcote townhouse."

Walker could not be reached for comment.

Henderson claims some of the sport's elite lost tens of thousands of dollars in fees paid to Bennett who promised to secure positions in high profile European teams, which never eventuated.

"It amazes me how the police have never managed to pick him up."

Henderson said many people were highly embarrassed after they were left out of pocket by the manager they simply knew as 'Paul'.

He understood Bennett and his partner left New Zealand by sea.

For one wealthy businessman, meeting the couple -- who he knew as Dave and Sarah Kite -- has allegedly left him substantially out of pocket.

The Christchurch businessman, who does not want to be identified, says he was swindled to the tune of $400,000, including $100,000 in helicopter deals and another $250,000, comprising business income and an insurance payout, which was allegedly fraudulently diverted.

Said the duped millionaire: "We thought people were late payers, which is a bit unusual and I always thought the insurance was just being dragged out."

Instead it is alleged Bennett opened an account with the ASB Bank and began trading as the businessman's company.

ASB spokesman Christian May confirmed the bank was involved in a police investigation.

"We are aware of this case which is now in the hands of the police. We are doing everything we can to assist the police with their investigation but, in the circumstances, we are unable to make any further comment," May said.

The businessman said the couple used a high-end online watch store to lure prospective wealthy targets.

He said Bennett came across as a likeable, knowledgeable man and was very convincing.

"He talked himself up about flying important people around. He's a bit of a name dropper and liked to talk about flying important film stars and Formula One racing drivers around Europe."

A Customs spokesperson said people on legitimate passports were able to move freely across borders unless police placed an alert on their system.

- Lynley Bilby of the Herald on Sunday

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