Acting Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Finance trio face 92 charges

Three former directors of failed Gisborne finance firm Rockforte face 92 criminal charges after allegedly using investors' money to fund their personal business interests.

Rockforte Finance was placed into receivership in May 2010, calling on the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme to repay $3.2 million to 77 mum-and-dad investors.

Receivers said last year that the Government was likely to recover less than 5c in the dollar.

After a 13-month investigation the Serious Fraud Office has laid 92 charges against three men involved with the company.

Two of Rockforte's former directors, Gisborne accountant Nigel Brent O'Leary and former banker Colin Mark Simpson, each face 34 Crimes Act charges and fellow director John Patrick Gardner faces 24 charges.

The alleged offences include theft by a person in a special relationship, false accounting and obtaining by deception.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of between seven and 10 years' imprisonment.

Rockforte's portfolio was mainly small loans on secondhand Japanese imported vehicles.

A 2010 receivers' report said security for its loans could "generally be described as poor and in some cases nonexistent" and 35 of its loan files were missing.

O'Leary, Simpson and Gardner allegedly used a "significant portion" of investors' money to fund their own personal business interest in Gisborne Haulage and Michael Ward 1969, which operated the Jean Jones womenswear label throughout New Zealand. Jean Jones has since been sold.

Under Rockforte's trust deed, the company was prohibited from using investors' funds to make loans to related parties in excess of 2 per cent of its total tangible assets.

"The failure of Rockforte Finance, and the consequential failure of several other businesses, had a significant impact on the Gisborne community," said SFO chief executive Adam Feeley. "It is important for investor and business confidence that the persons responsible for that failure are held to account."

Now charges have been filed against the Rockforte trio, Hanover is the only failed finance company the SFO is still investigating.

- NZ Herald

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