'Unadulterated thieving' nearly killed off Springs speedway

By Edward Gay

David Stewart. Photo / Greg Bowker
David Stewart. Photo / Greg Bowker

Western Springs Speedway general manager David Stewart's "unadulterated thieving" might have closed the popular speedway if not for his boss laying people off to prop it up.

Stewart stole more than $350,000 from businessman and Western Springs licence-holder Bill Buckley over two years.

He spent the money on his estranged wife's rental home, his new girlfriend's gym membership, and a luxury car rental.

He also used it to prop up his own company, Harbour Festival, which promoted events at Auckland's Viaduct.

On some occasions Stewart used cheques and forged Mr Buckley's signature.

He also took more than $90,000 in cash from door sales at the speedway, telling staff the money was for drivers' cash prizes. During the 52-year-old's sentencing yesterday, Auckland District Court was told how despite receiving a $100,000 salary with bonuses and a company car, Stewart continued to steal from his boss.

At the same time, Mr Buckley was forced to make redundancies at his company - silicon chip-maker Buckley systems.

Stewart had earlier pleaded guilty to 47 charges including causing loss by deception, forgery and using altered documents. He was sentenced to two years and three months' jail.

He almost escaped imprisonment after an impassioned plea from his lawyer Todd Simmonds, who said his client was remorseful and had paid $150,000 in reparation despite being bankrupt.

Mr Simmonds said if Stewart was allowed home detention, he could continue making payments of $3500 a month to Mr Buckley.

Judge Roy Wade said he would like to ask Mr Buckley how he felt. Crown prosecutor Mark Williams said Mr Buckley was not prepared to wait for further reparation and he had to take into account the feelings of those staff members who had been made redundant while Stewart stole from him.

A staunch supporter of the speedway, Mr Buckley said in his victim impact statement that he had trusted Stewart as the Springs general manager and even gave him $100,000 to buy a property in Leigh.

At the time of Stewart's offending, he couldn't work out why the speedway was failing and he had to lay off staff at Buckley Systems during the financial crisis while still propping up the speedway. "I believe Dave identified me for his unadulterated thieving," Mr Buckley said.

Judge Wade described the offending as sophisticated and premeditated.

Breach of trust

The victim: Bill Buckley

Made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2012 and a finalist in the Herald's New Zealander of the year.

Owns Buckley Systems Ltd, which supplies silicon chips to 80 per cent of the world's markets for use in mobile phones, televisions and cancer treatment equipment.

Buckley Systems has been running since 1978 and exports about 800 tonnes of machines a month with a turnover of close to $100 million.

The thief: David Stewart

Stole more than $350,000. Spent the money on a rental Jeep Grand Cherokee and servicing, gym membership for his girlfriend, rental property for his estranged wife, and propping up his own business.


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