Man sentenced for bribing ex-ACC manager

By Rosaleen Macbrayne

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A property developer has been given 11 months home detention for bribing a former Accident Compensation Corporation manager.

Gregory Alexander Hutt, 54, pleaded guilty to the bribery charge in May and was sentenced by Justice Ronald Young in the High Court at Wellington today.

Hutt was charged by the Serious Fraud Office after paying the ACC's then-property manager at the time, 50-year-old Malcolm David Mason, $160,000 for confidential building information.

A director of Wellington-based construction company Hi-Tech Commercial Interiors, Hutt had dealt with Mason doing fit-outs for ACC offices.

In 2006, Mason passed on plans to replace some of ACC's existing offices, including the one in central Whangarei.

That enabled Hutt to buy a site there, which Mason subsequently recommended to his bosses as being suitable for a new branch.

Mason's influence gave Hutt the opportunity to develop a new building and lease it long-term to ACC.

He later sold the office block for a profit and, in mid-2009, paid Mason $160,000 from the proceeds.

Hutt made $205,000 after deducting the bribe.

In 2010, when the Serious Fraud Office started an investigation, Mason lost his 32-year job with the corporation.

Malcolm Mason, who entered early guilty pleas to three charges of bribery and corruption - including the one involving Hutt - was last year also sentenced to 11 months home on detention. The $160,000 bribe was forfeited.

For Hutt, Donald Stevens QC told the court that Mason was under pressure to obtain new premises for the corporation and, with nothing suitable available in Whangarei, decided a new building would be the answer.

Mason approached Hutt, suggesting the merits of obtaining the land and building on it to ACC specifications, thus providing an opportunity for both of them to make some money.

Hutt agreed to pay a proportion of the eventual profit to Mason, which amounted to the offence of bribery.

It was "a moment of madness" that had catastrophic effects for Hutt, the lawyer said.

But Justice Young said: "That is not an accurate description of it."

It was not "a moment", but a corrupt bargain that carried on.

Dr Stevens said his client, who had no previous convictions, was known to set high standards for himself and was described as honest, upfront and direct, caring and generous.

The offending had been completely out of character. Hutt was "acutely aware" how much he had let himself and others down, particularly his family and friends. His health had suffered and his business was in jeopardy.

That, said Justice Young, was caused partly by Hutt not pleading guilty earlier.

"The toll would have been less if he hadn't chosen to drag it out."

He acknowledged that Hutt, as well as Mason, had forfeited the proceeds of their offending and said he was satisfied Mason's culpability was "slightly greater" than Hutt's.

"However, you were clearly a willing participant."

Although regarded as unlikely to re-offend, Hutt was now marked as someone who had acted dishonestly, the judge said.

"I am afraid it is a serious stain on your character that will last for the rest of your life."

- APNZ

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