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The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has laid charges following its investigation into South Canterbury Finance, SFO chief executive Adam Feeley said in a statement yesterday.
Mr Feeley said that, following a 14-month investigation into a variety of transactions involving the failed finance company, the SFO had laid 21 charges against five individuals involved with the company's affairs.
The SFO did not name the people involved because of possible issues regarding name suppression.
"Until such time as the charges are first heard before the court, and any issues regarding suppression have been fully dealt with, it would not be appropriate to make any comment on which individuals have been charged," Mr Feeley said.
He confirmed the charges allege a variety of offences, including theft by a person in a special relationship, obtaining by deception, false statements by the promoter of a company and false accounting.
The offences carry maximum penalties of between seven and 10 years' imprisonment.
South Canterbury Finance was placed into receivership on August 31 last year owing about $1.8 billion.
However, because of the company's participation in the Crown retail deposits scheme, 35,000 SCF investors were bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of $1.7 billion.
"The collapse of South Canterbury Finance was one the most significant of all the failed finance companies," Mr Feeley said.
"The value of the fraud alleged to have been committed exceeds anything in the history of white-collar crime in New Zealand, and the time we have taken to complete this matter is a reflection of that scale," he said.
Mr Feeley went on to say that it was not appropriate to comment on details of the allegations, but he said the investigation itself had been "one of the most resource-intensive and time-consuming in recent history".
The SFO said it could not confirm the details of the allegedly fraudulent transactions, or who was alleged to have been involved in each of them.
The total estimated value of allegedly fraudulent transactions was about $1.7 billion, which included an estimated $1.58 billion from entering the Government's retail deposits guarantee scheme.
The SFO has been working closely with the newly formed Financial Markets Authority (FMA) in the case. The FMA would provide support in relation to some charges.
FMA chief executive Sean Hughes said it was also examining avenues to take civil proceedings in order to "recuperate" some of the money paid out to South Canterbury Finance investors under the retail deposit guarantee scheme.
South Canterbury Finance was founded in 1926 but was developed into New Zealand's largest finance company before its collapse by the now-deceased Timaru businessman, Allan Hubbard.
He died in a car crash in September, ending an 18-month long chain of events that began with the Government putting Mr Hubbard, his wife Jean, and some of their business interests, under statutory management.