Ex-wine boss Peter Scutts' convictions have been upheld in a case where he was found to have taken almost $65,000 in kickbacks.
Court of Appeal's Justices Paul Heath, Rhys Harrison and David Collins today dismissed Scutts' appeal against his conviction on 16 charges of dishonestly using a document and one Secret Commission Act charge of receiving secret reward for procuring contracts.
Scutts, former chief executive of the Auckland Blues rugby franchise, was ordered to serve eight months' home detention in July for this offending and is part way through that term.
At Scutts' sentencing, former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry, broadcaster Murray Deaker, former Olympic rower Peter Masfen and high-profile businessman Michael Stiassny all provided references supporting him.
Scutts, a former New Zealand Wine Company chief executive, struck an agreement where Liquor Marketing Group would pay him A$1 for every supplied case of wine they sold.
Crucially in his case, the High Court's Justice Mary Peters found this agreement was reached before New Zealand Wine Company signed a supply contract with LMG.
Scutts, who acted as a consultant for NZWC in 2009 and became its chief executive in June 2011, would go on to receive about $64,000 from LMG.
The agreement with LMG established an offence under the Secret Commissions Act. Under that law, someone breaks the law if they advise a person to enter into a contract with a third party and receives or agrees to receive a gift or reward from that third party without the original person's consent or knowledge.
Each dishonestly using a document charge represented an invoice sent to LMG to obtain the A$1 per case.
The Queen's Counsel for Scutts, John Billington, focused in his appeal on the judge's reasons for finding the Crown had proved the existence of the agreement necessary to establish the Secret Commissions Act charge.
Billington argued the judge's decision did not show a credible reasoning process.
"Mr Billington says the Judge's reasons are so incomplete as to amount to a failure to discharge her judicial function," Justice Harrison said this morning, when delivering the Court of Appeal's decision.
While saying Justice Mary Peters' reasons should have been expressed more "comprehensively, explicitly and within a more analytical structure", the Court of Appeal was satisfied they were sufficient to disclose a logical connection between the evidence, the issue and her verdicts.
"We are satisfied also that the judge did not reverse or misapply the Crown's burden of proof and her verdicts were reached according to the criminal standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt," Justice Harrison said.
While Billington did not challenge the judge's reasons for the guilty verdicts on the dishonest use of a document charges, the Court of Appeal was independently satisfied these were established.
This was because the evidence of Scutts' falsification of his son's signature on invoices, his lies to the NZWC board and to the Serious Fraud Office, and his use of funds "were compelling evidence of his use of the invoices to obtain a pecuniary advantage and without claim of right," Justice Harrison said.