Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Five Star case hits further delays

Neill Williams. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Neill Williams. Photo / Steven McNicholl

The case of a man alleged to be a prime mover at the failed Five Star Group - who admitted misleading investors two years ago but then tried to reverse his plea - has hit further delays.

Neill Allan Williams pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges concerning misstatements in company offer documents but later argued he only did so because he was too ill to endure a trial.

The discharged bankrupt made two unsuccessful attempts to vacate his plea, one in 2011 and another in March this year.

Williams was not a listed director of Five Star but an employee of the group. The Financial Markets Authority, which is bringing the case, alleges he was a prime mover at the company if not, at times, a controller of events.

Williams, who is in his late 70s, was due to have a disputed facts hearing over his role at Five Star before his sentencing this month.

His lawyers applied to adjourn this hearing until the conclusion of a separate trial happening next year where Williams is facing charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office.

This was unsuccessful and the hearing was rescheduled for a week during December in the Auckland District Court.

But Williams has applied to have both the decisions on his plea vacation and the refusal to adjourn the disputed facts hearing reviewed.

Lawyers for both the Crown and Williams appeared in the High Court at Auckland yesterday to discuss a date for this review, which is expected to take one day. One of Williams' lawyers, Eb Leary, is unavailable for the review until the middle of December because of another case he is involved in.

Justice Peter Woodhouse directed that the review should be set for the first available date when the court opens again in February.

Earlier this month Judge Kiernan said the judicial review appeared like an attempt to delay proceedings.

Neill Williams
* The Five Star group Five Star marketed itself as a low or modest-risk finance entity which made small consumer loans for clients to make household purchases such as fridges.
* Five Star was allegedly investing large sums in complex commercial and related party loans - totalling more than $50 million.
* In 2007, Five Star Consumer Finance collapsed with losses of $42 million.
* Other companies in the group, Five Star Finance and Five Star Debenture Nominee, owe a further $43 million.

- NZ Herald

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