Lynley Bilby is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Fugitive on the run since 2008 arrives back in NZ

Paul Bennett is being deported from Australia, In this file photo he is pictured with his now estranged wife Simone Wright. Photo / Supplied
Paul Bennett is being deported from Australia, In this file photo he is pictured with his now estranged wife Simone Wright. Photo / Supplied

One of New Zealand's most wanted fugitives has been deported from Australia and has touched down in New Zealand today.

Paul Bennett, who has been on the run from New Zealand police for more than a decade, was removed from Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.

Mr Bennett told the New Zealand Herald today he was booked on a commercial flight, which landed in Christchurch this afternoon.

New Zealand Police confirmed the wanted man, who has been on the run since 2008, had arrived on a flight from Australia this afternoon.

He was met by officers on arrival and taken into custody on existing arrest warrants.
Police said he would appear in Christchurch District Court tomorrow on a number of charges.

The 53-year-old New Zealander, who was recently convicted in Australia on fraud charges dating back 15 years when he applied for finance under the guise of working and living at Hollywood actor Russell Crowe's family farm, is being deported under the country's strict new immigration laws.

Mr Bennett was being escorted on board the transtasman flight by three police officers.
The convicted fraudster has spent the best part of the last 14 years on the run from authorities in Australia and New Zealand.

His fugitive life came crashing to a halt in February last year when police arrested him as he sailed into Sydney Harbour from Northland on board a crippled yacht.

He was arrested at the border and has been in custody ever since.

He and his estranged wife Simone Wright have an outstanding warrant relating to the sexual assault of a girl in 2008 after failing to appear in the North Shore District Court.

He denies the charge.

Police launched Operation Kite in 2014 to investigate a string of fraud allegations with Bennett a person of interest in a fraud investigation they believe may total more than $1million.

It relates to selling watches on Trade Me and brokering helicopter deals dating back to 1998.

He and his wife, with whom he fled to Australia two years ago, are now estranged. Police have previously travelled to Australia and invited her to return to New Zealand voluntarily.

Bennett, who also goes by a number of aliases, refutes the allegations and previously told the Herald on Sunday he welcomed the opportunity to clear his name.

- NZ Herald

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