Feeley speaks up for SFO

Adam Feeley
Adam Feeley
Former Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley is defending his former employer's handling of the South Canterbury Finance case.

But he sheds no light on the key issue of why former Treasury secretary John Whitehead was not called.

As the Queenstown Lakes District Council's chief executive, Mr Feeley has been reluctant to comment on high-profile cases - predominantly over collapsed finance companies - that were started under his watch at the SFO and have subsequently washed through the courts since he left two years ago.

But he told the Otago Daily Times he was compelled to comment because of ''misrepresentation'' over the SCF case, which was once described as the country's biggest alleged fraud but resulted in only one defendant being found guilty.

Mr Feeley said a decision to prosecute under the Solicitor-general's prosecution guidelines had to be independently reviewed and agreed by external legal advice.

''In the case of SCF, three partners from the Auckland Crown solicitors and a Queen's Counsel were involved.

''This was not a decision made on a whim.''

His ''misrepresentation'' barb was aimed at former SFO assistant director Gib Beattie, who worked for all five of the accused men and described the SFO case as incompetent and inept.

''I know for a fact they didn't talk to all the people they should have talked to,'' Mr Beattie said on Tuesday, after Justice Paul Heath found former director Ed Sullivan guilty of five of nine charges and cleared former chief executive Lachie McLeod and former director Robert White of all charges.

Mr Beattie, who worked for the SFO for 20 years, said: ''When you charge someone with a so-called $1.6 billion fraud you better have done your job properly.''

Justice Heath added to the criticism, saying the SFO should have called Mr Whitehead to explain why he agreed to allow SCF into the Crown guarantee scheme.

Mr Feeley told the ODT the SCF trial happened long after he left the SFO and he was not aware of the prosecution strategy.

''All I can say is that Colin Carruthers QC, who led the case for SFO, is one of New Zealand's leading criminal barristers.''

Of Mr Beattie, the former SFO chief executive said he was made redundant long before SCF was investigated.

''I am curious, to say the least, to see how he could have an even vaguely informed opinion on the SCF investigation.''

Mr Feeley said the SFO had good teams managing large workloads, and the same people who investigated SCF secured convictions in seven other finance company cases: Dominion Finance, Capital + Merchant Finance, Bridgecorp, Five Star Finance, Belgrave Finance, Rockforte Finance and National Finance.

''Those results are impressive,'' he said, while noting that just as in police prosecutions, a judge or jury did not always agree with the prosecution case.

Mr Feeley vaulted into national headlines last month as then justice minister Judith Collins resigned after an email surfaced saying she was ''gunning for Feeley''.

david.williams@odt.co.nz

 -by David Williams

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