Watchdog still mulling Hanover charges

File has remained open for longer than any other failed finance company because of complexity, says SFO

Photo / NZPA
Photo / NZPA

The Serious Fraud Office has spent longer mulling whether or not to lay charges in the wake of the Hanover collapse than in the case of any other finance company it has probed.

While saying the SFO was "fairly close" to making a decision, acting chief executive Simon McArley did not reveal yesterday exactly when this would be announced.

In April last year a Court of Appeal judgment said Hanover failed in mid-2008 causing substantial losses to depositors. About 16,000 people with investments totalling more than $500 million lost most of their money following the failure of Hanover and related companies, and the sale of assets to Allied Farmers. After receiving complaints the SFO launched an investigation in September 2010.

Nearly two years and five months later the SFO's Hanover file has remained open - with no charges being laid - for longer than any other failed finance company.

The office spent almost as long probing the Five Star Group before charging four men associated with the companies in August 2010.

The SFO has come to no conclusions regarding Hanover and McArley admitted the matter had been "going on for a long time".

"It's a fairly complex matter. It involves the reconstruction of just about the entire loan book and a line-by-line analysis of what went on with it," he said.

But McArley said the investigation phase had concluded last year and some of the office's work had been peer-reviewed by "external experts".

The feedback from that peer-review is now being considered by the SFO's lawyers, he said.

"We recognise that it's not ideal for anyone that this has gone on so long. We're probably amongst the front of the queue when it comes to wanting this thing finished but at the end of the day we have to do a thorough and proper job and whatever the outcome say 'well we looked at everything that merited investigation'," he said.

Separate to the SFO investigation, the Financial Markets Authority is taking civil action against six former Hanover directors and promoters over allegedly misleading or untrue statements made in offer documents.

The FMA is seeking compensation for investors who put $35 million into Hanover Finance, Hanover Capital and United Finance between December 2007 and July 22, 2008. The market watchdog is also seeking penalty orders against the defendants, and if the claim is successful, the former directors and promoters could each face fines of up to $5 million.

- NZ Herald

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