Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

New charges for notorious fugitive

Paul James Bennett, who also goes by the name of David Kite or Dennis Kite, and his wife Simone Anne Wright, also known as Sarah Kite. Photo / Supplied
Paul James Bennett, who also goes by the name of David Kite or Dennis Kite, and his wife Simone Anne Wright, also known as Sarah Kite. Photo / Supplied

New charges have today been laid against one of New Zealand's most wanted fugitives, who was deported from Australia last month.

Paul James Bennett, who has allegedly been on the run from police for more than a decade, appeared at Christchurch District Court on May 14 on a raft of charges, alleging fraud, forgery, theft, indecent assaults and drug offences.

The 53-year-old was remanded in custody without plea until today.

When he appeared before Judge Brian Callaghan via audio visual link from prison this morning, a lawyer for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) filed 12 new charges.

The charges allege that Bennett, also known as David Alexander Kite and David Alexander Hansen, flew a Eurocopter AS350B2 helicopter on six occasions across New Zealand, including Hamilton, Upper Hutt, Paraparaumu, and Christchurch, between March 22 and April 21, 2014 without holding a private pilot's licence and without an appropriate current medical certificate.

CAA lawyer Andrew Hill said the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 12 months' imprisonment or a fine of up to $10,000, were originally filed in March last year and the authority has been "waiting for his return" before they could be laid.

Lawyer Serena Bailey, appearing on behalf of defence counsel Andrew Bailey, asked for a further two week remand in custody without plea.

She said information about the police case had recently been handed over but Mr Bailey had not yet had a chance to discuss it with Bennett.

Judge Callaghan remanded Bennett in custody to appear again on June 27.

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.

Bennett is accused of 48 varying offences between June 2007 and February 6, 2015, across New Zealand, including Auckland, Manukau, Whangarei, Paihia, Taupo, Palmerston North, Upper Hutt, Christchurch, Cust, Wanaka, Naseby, and Invercargill.

They include allegations that along with now estranged wife Simone Wright, he indecently assaulted a 15-year-old girl on two occasions between March 28 and April 1, 2008.

Bennett is also accused of supplying the teenager the class B drug MDMA, or ecstasy.

Many of the charges allege that he used documents dishonestly and without claim of right to obtains hundreds of thousands of dollars. He's also accused of selling a fake Rolex watch.

Between January 26 and February 6 last year he is accused of stealing, alongside Wright, a Beau Birdsall 45 cutter yacht worth $145,000 from Paihia.

Bennett and Wright were arrested in February last year as they sailed into Sydney Harbour from Northland on board a crippled yacht.

- NZ Herald

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