David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

$18m fraudster granted parole

Stephen Versalko was sentenced to a six-year prison term for stealing $17.8 million from clients while he worked for ASB Bank. Photo / Dean Purcell
Stephen Versalko was sentenced to a six-year prison term for stealing $17.8 million from clients while he worked for ASB Bank. Photo / Dean Purcell

The banker who stole $18 million from clients is "deeply remorseful and ashamed" about his offending, according to the Parole Board report which confirms his release.

Former ASB investment adviser Stephen Versalko told the Parole Board he would never again work in the financial sector "or hold a position of financial responsibility".

Even with the assurance, the board banned him from contact with any finances, whether as part of a job or on a voluntary basis, without special approval. He was also banned from contact with his victims or ASB Bank, where he worked.

The Parole Board granted Versalko release after the minimum four years imposed of his six year sentence. The Herald understands most of his time has been served in Rangipo prison in the central North Island where he has been a minimum security prisoner. His release date is February 25.

READ THE FULL PAROLE BOARD DECISION HERE

Versalko was sent to prison in 2010 after pleading guilty to the fraud committed while working as an investment adviser for ASB Bank's Remuera branch. The fraud emerged after one of his clients saw a documentary on the US fraudster Bernie Madoff, who stole billions from investment clients.

At the time of his conviction, Versalko was guilty of carrying out the biggest employee theft in New Zealand's history. The money he stole through an increasingly elaborate Ponzi scheme was spent on a lavish lifestyle, including $3.4m on prostitutes and more than $300,000 on fine wine.

The parole board report stated he was considered at a low risk of re-offending so was not placed in any rehabilitation programme to address his offending. As an prisoner, he had a "positive and helpful attitude towards staff and other inmates".

When appearing before the board, he told them he was "aware of his risk areas".

Versalko presented the board with an "extensive relapse prevention plan" for his release. It showed the board Versalko had good support from a person who was also able to offer accommodation.

The board said Versalko had "a large number of supportive people in the community" willing to help with fitting back into life outside prison and monitoring his behaviour.

"He is very conscious of the impact that this offending has had on his victims, employer, family and friends. He does not attempt to excuse or minimise his behaviour, he takes full responsibility for it and blames no one other than himself."

- NZ Herald

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