Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Finance company director granted jury trial

Carol Braithwaite, a director of National Finance, appeared at the High Court in Auckland today. Photo / Greg Bowker
Carol Braithwaite, a director of National Finance, appeared at the High Court in Auckland today. Photo / Greg Bowker

National Finance's Carol Anne Braithwaite is set to be the first director from a failed finance company to be tried before a jury.

Braithwaite - the former wife of jailed National Finance boss Trevor Ludlow - faces one charge of making untrue statements in a company prospectus.

The accused appeared in court this morning and pleaded not guilty.

The charge, laid by the Financial Markets Authority, carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison or fines of up to $300,000.

Although Braithwaite made an application for her case to be heard by a jury last month, this was rejected.

Braithwaite's judge-alone trial was due to begin today but her lawyer, Quentin Duff, made a fresh application for a jury trial this morning.

Duff said it was in the interests of justice to have a jury hear a finance company trial and the case wasn't too complex for a jury to understand.

Duff also said the case's circumstances had changed since Braithwaite's co-accused pleaded guilty last month.

Braithwaite was originally due to appear in the dock with fellow director Anthony Banbrook, but the latter made an 11th-hour guilty plea in June.

Banbrook, who opposed the application for a jury trial, will now be sentenced next month.

While a jury trial will require the case to be squeezed into two weeks because of court schedules, Justice Pamela Andrews accepted Braithwaite's application.

The trial, with a jury, is now set to begin next Monday.

It is understood to be the first of the recent finance company prosecutions to go before a jury.

National Finance went into receivership in 2006, owing investors $21 million. Some investors have recovered 49c in the dollar.

Ludlow is serving a sentence of six years and four months after being convicted of charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Markets Authority.

He was found guilty last July of defrauding investors of an estimated $3.5 million.

Ludlow and Braithwaite once shared a $1.5 million Devonport property and in 2009 Ludlow blamed the stress of the business' failure for the pair's breakup. Both are banned from being directors of a company until April.

National Finance accountant John Gray pleaded guilty to theft and false accounting charges in the Auckland District Court in 2010 and was sentenced to nine months' home detention.

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