In an unusual move, the Securities Commission has released a statement saying it has nearly completed an investigation into the Hanover group of companies and might lay criminal charges against directors in the New Year.

The commission said given public and media speculation, it was in the public interest for it to clarify the status of its investigation into Hanover Finance.

"Commission staff are near completion of their investigation into Hanover Finance Limited, United Finance Limited and Hanover Capital Limited," the Securities Commission said.

"The investigation has been complex and involves a team including investigators, forensic accountants, financial analysts and lawyers. Commission Members, who have been kept informed of progress of the investigation, will meet before Christmas to decide whether criminal charges will be laid against directors of the companies."

"Although no decision has yet been made, it is likely any charges will be laid in the new year."

Current or former directors of one or all of Hanover Finance, Hanover Capital and United Finance have included former co-owner Mark Hotchin, Greg Muir, David Henry, Sir Tipene O'Regan, and Bruce Gordon.

Companies Office records don't show the other former co-owner, Eric Watson who has lived overseas for several years, as ever being a director of any of the three companies.

However, a 2007 Hanover Finance prospectus notes it was signed on behalf of Hanover Financial Services Ltd and Hanover Group Ltd by the duly appointed agent of those companies and the directors who weren't also directors of Hanover Finance being Watson and Dennis Broit.

Property financier Hanover froze NZ$554 million owed to 16,500 investors in 2008. Investors' subsequently approved a moratorium proposal that pledged to pay them back over five years. Then a year later, in December 2009, Hanover investors agreed to swap their Hanover debentures for shares in Allied Farmers.

Today's news comes one day after Allied Farmers' Matarangi Beach Estates was put in receivership after the finance company turned down the chance to sell the assets back to Hotchin and Watson at a discount.

HSBC bank cancelled the beachfront development company's $19 million term loan facility after Allied refused to provide support for the facility that has been in default since last December.

Allied managing director Rob Alloway said in a statement that businessman Kerry Finnigan, representing an entity owned by Hotchin and Watson, offered to buy Matarangi's assets "for the loan value".

David Henry, an independent director of Hanover Finance, issued his own press release rejecting the Allied Farmers view, saying Alloway and the board had "managed the assets poorly, failed to fulfil their obligations made to investors, and need to start taking responsibility for their own actions rather than blaming others."

He said that 12 months ago Allied Farmers announced it had agreed to buy the finance assets of Hanover Finance and United Finance saying "Allied Farmers, assisted by its external advisors, have carried out detailed due diligence on the Hanover and United assets and have built up an understanding of the risk and return profile associated with them."

Henry said Allied actively promoted the strength of its organisation, both financially and operationally, and in particular its ability to manage the assets to preserve value and enhance the prospect of loan recovery, in road shows, its offer document and advertisements.


INTEREST.CO.NZ/ NZ HERALD