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Current as of 21/10/16 07:39PM NZST
Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Airport has 'arguable case of employee fraud' - judge

Auckland Airport has taken to the former employee to court over $1.84 million in unexplained transactions. Photo / NZME
Auckland Airport has taken to the former employee to court over $1.84 million in unexplained transactions. Photo / NZME

Auckland International Airport has a "seriously arguable case of employee fraud" against a sacked worker who it is chasing over $1.84 million of unexplained transactions, according to a judge.

The alleged fraud may have involved "manipulation and misuse" of the airport's accounting security procedures, said Employment Court Chief Judge Graeme Colgan.

The judge made the comments when freezing the home of the former airport worker and bank accounts linked to her.

The Serious Fraud Office has already confirmed it is investigating the matter, following the airport revealing it had sacked a "non-executive employee" who it was chasing through the courts over unexplained transactions amounting to at least $1.84 million.

The identity of the woman at the centre of the case has been kept secret by Employment Court Judge Colgan, who has banned publication of details which might identify her.

However, Judge Colgan says documents filed by the airport "disclose a seriously arguable case of employee fraud".

These affidavits allege a second payment was created for the same work done for the airport by a firm of professional engineers, the judge said.

While this allegedly happened several months ago, the airport only discovered it very recently, he said.

Judge Colgan was convinced to make the freezing orders without notifying the woman, who the evidence said had "overseas connections" that could make it easier to alienate the funds.

While the judge had initially frozen $503,000 on February 15, this had ballooned to $1.84 million when the airport's lawyers headed back to court three days later.

"The amount covered by the freezing orders is to be increased from the previous sum of approximately $503,000 to $1,840,000. There is respectable evidence that investigations have discovered that the amounts at issue are larger than first thought and probably exceed that figure of $1.84m," Judge Colgan said in a second decision.

The airport's former employee, nor a lawyer representing her, was not in court for that hearing.

The judge said that woman is entitled to draw up to $500 a week for living expenses, as well as funds for legal fees.

Judge Colgan also ordered she to disclose a list of all her assets worth more than $1000, together with details of her bank accounts or term deposits.

Phil Neutz, the airport's chief financial officer, said last month that the company's investigation was ongoing.

"It is important for investors to note that while this is a very serious matter, the sum of money involved does not impact our current financial statements or previous reported results," he said.

- NZ Herald

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