$18m fraud accused indicates early guilty plea

By Jared Savage

Stephen Gerard Versalko (L) arriving at Auckland District Court with his lawyer Stuart Grieve, QC, today. Photo / NZPA
Stephen Gerard Versalko (L) arriving at Auckland District Court with his lawyer Stuart Grieve, QC, today. Photo / NZPA

An ASB Bank investment banker has indicated that he will plead guilty to fraud charges involving nearly $18 million.

Stephen Gerard Versalko, 51, has today appeared in the Auckland District Court on three charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office after a three-month investigation.

His lawyer Stuart Grieve QC asked the court to remand the case for another week and indicated his client would plead guilty to the charges.

He asked for the adjournment so he could clarify the specific allegations made by the SFO in the summary of facts with Mr Versalko.

In light of the expected early guilty pleas, Judge Roderick Joyce QC granted the week-long adjournment and extended the suppression orders prohibiting the publication of the summary of facts.

The SFO case is that as a senior investment adviser, Versalko allegedly defrauded nearly 30 wealthy ASB clients of $17,763,110 over nine years until he was fired by the bank in August.

The amount taken is more than the $16.9 million fraud by a staff member of the Otago District Health Board in New Zealand's largest proven employee theft.

The three charges that Versalko faces are:

* obtained $12,958,608 from 17 ASB Bank clients by conducting 68 fraudulent transactions between October 2003 and August 2009.

* offered fictitious investment opportunities to obtain $1,074,077 in 12 fraudulent transactions between August 2000 and September 2003.

* obtained $3,730,423 from 28 ASB clients by conducting 43 fraudulent transactions between October 2003 and April 2009.

As a senior investment adviser, Versalko would have been paid an annual six-figure salary. He is now unemployed.

SFO director Adam Feeley has previously said the fraud by Versalko, if proven, would be "one of the larger employee frauds in New Zealand in recent years", and the agency had responded with a speedy and thorough investigation.

"In tough market conditions there is a legitimate public expectation that law enforcement agencies will act in a timely manner to prevent or minimise the impacts of crime on society," he told the Herald in December.

In March 2009, Otago District Health Board IT manager Michael Andrew Swann was jailed for 9 years - a record for an SFO prosecution - after being convicted of stealing $16.9 million through false invoices.

- NZ Herald

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