Two men convicted in the country's largest ever bribery prosecution, Stephen Borlase and Murray Noone, have lost their appeals.
In February, Borlase, former head of roading contracting business Projenz, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison while Noone, a former senior manager at Auckland Transport, was given a term of five years.
The case related to a pattern of payments from Projenz to Noone, totalling more than $1m over seven years, which High Court judge Justice Sally Fitzgerald found were related to the latter's role in awarding contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to Borlase's company.
Borlase appealed against his conviction and sentence to the Court of Appeal, while Noone appealed his sentence alone.
According to the Court of Appeal's decision, released today, Borlase accepted he corruptly gave bribes but argued the trial judge had erred in concluding that he had done so "with intent to influence him [Noone] in respect of any act or omission by him in his official capacity".
Borlase's lawyer, Ron Mansfield, argued that the Crown had failed to establish that the payments were made with the intention that Noone act improperly to Projenz's advantage.
"Mr Mansfield says there was no evidence of any express or implied request by Mr Borlase to influence Mr Noone to act differently or other than as he was required to act in
accordance with his official duties," the decision says.
The court found this argument to have "an element of unreality" and dismissed the appeal against conviction.
"Payment by this mechanism demonstrates that both knew receipt of the financial benefits was fundamentally inconsistent with Mr Noone's duties. That fact is conclusive evidence that both parties acted corruptly," the decision says.
"It is implicit in the arrangement that the payer's intention is to influence the recipient to act improperly. Otherwise, it might be rhetorically asked, what would be the purpose of the payments?"
Counsel for both appellants submitted the starting points adopted by the trial judge were too high and that the crimes did not warrant terms of imprisonment at the upper end of the scale.
"Sentences in that order are reserved for offending of the worst type. This offending falls well short of that characterisation," it was argued.
The Court of Appeal rejected this submission, which "flies in the face of the factual findings" of the trial judge.
"As the judge found, this was generic and systemic corruption with a tendency to undermine confidence in the administration of public affairs," the decision says.
"The repetitive payment of money and other benefits manifested a sustained pattern
of dishonesty, masked by sham consultancy arrangements."
The men's lawyers also argued that greater discounts should have been given for mitigating circumstances such as their previous good character but the Court of Appeal found that neither sentence was manifestly excessive.
The case resulted in a huge police haul of the proceeds of the crime, including a mortgage-free property portfolio worth at least $4 million, bank accounts containing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a car collection including a 1963 Ford Fairlane.