Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Terminally ill developer may still face damages action

Raymond Tasman Schofield was charged alongside Belgrave Finance directors Shane Buckley and Stephen Smith in September 2011.  Photo / Thinkstock
Raymond Tasman Schofield was charged alongside Belgrave Finance directors Shane Buckley and Stephen Smith in September 2011. Photo / Thinkstock

A property developer linked to Belgrave Finance has escaped criminal prosecution because he is terminally ill but could still be chased by the collapsed company's receivers for damages.

Raymond Tasman Schofield, who is in his early 50s, was charged alongside Belgrave Finance directors Shane Buckley and Stephen Smith in September 2011, with the Serious Fraud Office alleging the defendants misrepresented how investors' money would be used. The trio were also charged by the Financial Markets Authority for allegedly making untrue statements in offer documents.

The authority alleged that, in substance, Schofield acted as a Belgrave director and joined the SFO's prosecution against the men.

Buckley has since pleaded guilty to more than 20 charges and in August was sentenced to three years in jail.

A lawyer and former mayor of Central Hawkes Bay, Hugh Hamilton, was also charged in relation to the case in late November.

The SFO said Hamilton, 61, acted as a legal adviser to the other defendants.

Although the Belgrave trial was due to start this April, Schofield will not be required to appear after getting a conditional stay of the proceedings against him just before Christmas.

The stay was granted because Schofield is terminally ill.

But while he is no longer defending criminal charges, Schofield may still face civil action from Belgrave's receivers.

Receivers Brendon Gibson and Grant Graham filed a statement of claim against Buckley, Smith and Schofield in the High Court at Auckland in 2011. This alleged Smith and Buckley breached their duties to Belgrave and that the company suffered $22.5 million in losses as a result.

The receivers said Schofield dishonestly assisted the two others in this alleged breach of duty and are seeking damages from the defendants.

Asked if they would still take action against Schofield given his illness, Gibson said the case was being reviewed.

'It's something we're considering, but there's a whole range of issues with the claim," he told the Herald.

Unlike in a criminal prosecution, a civil case can still be pursued against a person's estate even if they are deceased.

A Waipukurau law firm - Davidson, Armstrong & Campbell - is also being targeted in the civil action along with Belgrave's auditors, chartered accountants Hayes Knight. The receivers have alleged that Hayes Knight owed Belgrave Finance certain duties of care and had acted negligently. Belgrave collapsed in 2008, owing around 1000 investors more than $20 million.

Investors have got back only 9.8 cents in the dollars to date.

- NZ Herald

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