Where is Swann's remorse?

The people of Otago now have further reason to be both bitter about fraudster Michael Swann and disillusioned by his early release from prison.

The Rolls-Royce discovered in a container in Dunedin and linked to Mr Swann, again mocks any supposed co-operation or remorse.

As Otago District Health Board IT manager, Mr Swann defrauded, with Kerry Harford, the board of $16.9 million. He was sentenced to nine years and six months in jail and was released last month after spending four years and eight months in prison.

Mr Harford, who took 10% for his role, settled with the board on reparation while in Mr Swann's case it has been an ongoing struggle to find assets.

While in prison, Mr Swann, in an affidavit dated March 28, 2010, stated: ''I can definitely say that there is nothing by way of hidden or missing property'' as every item of property was already restrained.

Yet, a Rolls tucked away in the corner of a Port Otago yard now emerges. It was not even on the list of cars subject to a confiscation order, which includes three luxury cars still to be found. Where are these three vehicles?

And what other cars or additional assets are salted away? The police and the Otago District Health Board, and its Southern successor, have been consistently frustrated by Mr Swann's lack of co-operation and, as they see it, his obstructiveness.

Under these circumstances, it just does not seem right that Mr Swann should be released after serving just under half his sentence.

What is more, it was on the basis of supposed remorse and reparations that his sentence was trimmed in the first place. When he was jailed in March 2009, after denying the charges, Justice Lyn Stevens acknowledged he could have sentenced Mr Swann to as much as 21 years' jail.

He did, however, settle on a 10 years and six months ''starting point'', and then knocked off a year for three reasons; Mr Swann's ''relatively clean record'', his expressed ''remorse'' and ''attempts at reaching an agreement regarding reparation''.

We now know how false those second two reasons were. The judge should not have given Mr Swann any credit for empty words, and at least made parole subject to full co-operation.

Justice Stevens' sentencing notes record Mr Swann initially had ''limited insight'' into his offending but ''in more recent times'' there had been a change.

He noted Mr Swann's lawyer emphasised Mr Swann had made ''an offer of amends'' and also emphasised ''the deep regret and remorse'' Mr Swann had ''finally brought to bear''.

''[His lawyer] apologised on your behalf to the community at large.''

Mr Swann's claim he had ''no personal property, monies or assets'' and ''all property tainted by these frauds has been seized''. No wonder the public remains angry and upset.

At least, when a Proceeds of Crime Act order was made in September 2010, the police had set the record straight, with Justice Graham Panckhurst saying Mr Swann's attitude had been ''the very antithesis'' of co-operation.

In the meantime, for example, police had recovered a motorbike concealed on a Dunedin rural property. Come his parole hearing, however, and Mr Swann again appears to have conned authorities.

First, he was assessed by a psychologist as having a low risk of reoffending. If he was genuinely remorseful and had co-operated, this might be credible. But, as the health board said in a submission to the parole board, because Mr Swann remained recalcitrant it was difficult to see how the parole board could be confident he had been rehabilitated and was not at risk of reoffending.

It would seem, just like the judge at the first trial, the board bought the line about being remorseful, through the advice of the psychologist.

Similarly, the ongoing lack of co-operation with the health board over an outstanding litigation matter - where Mr Swann's obstructiveness has been costing the board ongoing money and time - should have been a warning that Mr Swann was not in a state to be released.

What many in our community will now be hoping, though, is that police can pin the Rolls-Royce firmly to Mr Swann and that the earlier affidavit, and perhaps other statements, are sufficient for Mr Swann to face further convictions and, in that way, be returned to jail.

 

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