Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Fake ad scam not 'serious' enough for High Court

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A group charged by the Serious Fraud Office for allegedly operating a $1.6 million advertising invoice scam don't want the case transferred to the High Court because it isn't "serious" enough.

Anthony John Hendon, Noelene Kay Banton, James Stephen Burns, and Johannes Hendrik Maria Middledorp face a mix of charges including dishonestly using a document and participation in an organised criminal group.

They were arrested in a joint-operation known as "Operation Edit" involving the SFO, the New Zealand Police, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand, the Commerce Commission, New Zealand Customs, and Inland Revenue.

The group allegedly sold advertising in magazines that were either, never printed, or the number of magazines that were printed and circulated was grossly exaggerated, the SFO said when the originally announced the charges.

"The magazines were generally titled in a way that suggests worthwhile causes in subjects such as road safety, parenting or drug addiction. It is alleged that the scam has generated up to $1.6 million since 2008," the SFO said at the time.

This afternoon in the Wellington High Court, the SFO is due to apply to have the case transferred there from the Wellington District Court.

Crown lawyer Grant Burston said there had been a lot of Serious Fraud Office cases transferred to the more senior court.

"There's been lots of them because by definition they're [allegedly] serious complex frauds and the question is essentially 'is it serious enough to be done in the High Court?' because the High Court is the senior trial court and they should do the most complex, difficult and serious crime," he said.

The SFO believe this case is serious enough to warrant the transfer, based on protocols set out by the Chief High Judge and Chief District Court Judge.

However, documents opposing the transfer have been filed on the grounds the case isn't "serious enough".

"Plenty of cases like this have been dealt with in the District Court...it's not like it's Operation Eight or anything," said a defence lawyer involved in the matter.

Operation Eight involved the surveillance, raids and arrests by police in the Urewera, Ruatoki and other parts of New Zealand in 2007.

One women involved in the alleged invoice scam, Terran Elizabeth Dow, pleaded guilty to Crimes Act charges last year and was sentenced to 220 hours community work and 12 months supervision.

- NZ Herald

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