Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Rockforte Finance man gets home detention

Justice Simon France. Sentencing Rockforte Finance director Colin Simpson today, France said the Gisborne firm had been seen as a local business, one that could be relied upon. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Justice Simon France. Sentencing Rockforte Finance director Colin Simpson today, France said the Gisborne firm had been seen as a local business, one that could be relied upon. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A former director of failed finance firm Rockforte, which lost $3.8 million in investors' money, was sentenced to home detention and community work at Wellington High Court today.

Colin Mark Simpson, 52, was handed a sentence of 11 months' home detention and 200 hours' community work by Justice Simon France for nine charges brought against him by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

Simpson, who will serve the sentence at a Gisborne address, had pleaded guilty to the charges of false accounting, theft by a person in a special relationship, obtaining by deception and false statement by promoter, at the beginning of the month.

When the company collapsed in May last year, 90 investors were owed $3.8m. They were reimbursed through the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme.

Following a 13-month investigation into Rockforte, the SFO laid 92 charges against Simpson and two other company directors - Nigel Brent O'Leary and John Patrick Gardner.

O'Leary and Gardner are due to go to trial at the end of this month. The SFO alleges the men used a large portion of investors' money to fund their own personal interest in Gisborne Haulage and Michael Ward, 1969, which operated Jean Jones womenswear label throughout New Zealand.

Justice France said while Simpson's actions had cause harm to a lot of people, he was not one of the principal offenders in the case.

"Their money was invested because they trusted in you and you abused that.

"Rockforte Finance was seen as a local business run by local people that could be relied upon," he said.

Simpson, who had been a bank manager in Gisborne for more than 20 years, had owned up to his offending and volunteered to help in investigations against O'Leary and Gardner.

Justice France said the father-of-three had also remained involved in the Gisborne community since Rockforte's demise, and had taken up three low-paid jobs to support his family.

A sentence of community work and home detention reflected Simpson's remorse and assistance in the Crown case against his co-accused. It would also enable him to contribute to the community, Justice France said.

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