Accountant suspended for drug charges

By Ben Chapman-Smith

David Payne has been suspended by the chartered accountants' professional body. Photo / Thinkstock
David Payne has been suspended by the chartered accountants' professional body. Photo / Thinkstock

A chartered accountant who was arrested in a major South Island drug bust last year has been suspended by the industry's disciplinary tribunal.

David Christopher James Payne was one of seven people arrested in June when police terminated Operation Canary, a four-year investigation into large-scale illegal commercial cannabis growing operations in Southland.

The Invercargill man faces 11 charges for cultivating cannabis and one charge for possessing cannabis with the purpose of selling or offering to sell.

Police alleged the accused were part of a crime syndicate which had grown more than 1000 cannabis plants over a period of years, with an estimated value of $4.5 million.

Payne was called before the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants' (NZICA) Disciplinary Tribunal last last year.

In a decision released today, the tribunal said it had suspended Payne from membership of the NZICA on the grounds that he faced "serious charges" yet to be heard in court.

Payne was in the news again last month after police accidentally disclosed sensitive information to Operation Canary defendants.

Southland police had provided digital files to the accused but failed to properly edit out censored information, including details about police informants.

The information was returned late last month under a court order.

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