Former South Canterbury Finance director Edward Sullivan has been found guilty of making false statements, but two former SCF heads have today been cleared of any wrongdoing in what had been billed as the "biggest fraud in New Zealand's history".
As the black pin-stripe suited Sullivan left the courthouse today, he was determined to depart without making comment to the waiting media throng.
Clearly angered, he put his head down and charged towards a Herald photographer.
After being advised to calm down by his wife and son, a red-faced Sullivan tried to rush the photographer again - only to be held back by his son.
He crossed the road and was bundled into a car and left.
Meanwhile South Canterbury Finance (SCF) chief executive Lachie McLeod, 50, and former director, accountant Robert White, 70, looked a lot happier after being found not guilty on all charges by Justice Paul Heath after what was a lengthy and complex trial.
Ex-director, lawyer Edward Sullivan, 72, has been found guilty on five of nine charges, including making false statements and misuse of a document for pecuniary advantage.
Justice Paul Heath said that he would call for home detention reports but told Sullivan that was no indication that he would avoid jail.
SCF grew from $75 million in 2004 to nearly $2 billion in 2008, the court heard.
A large crowd in the High Court in Timaru public gallery expressed muted delight at the verdicts.
McLeod's defence counsel Jonathan Eaton hinted at the possibility of legal action against the SFO for bringing the charges.
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He said they would first study the lengthy judgement and dissect the transactions.
"We've always said there were serious failings in the investigation and the quality of the evidence and no doubt that will be formally visited at some later stage," Mr Eaton said.
"At the heart of the allegations was this suggestion that there was this culture of concealment at South Canterbury, allegations of dishonesty, which are very serious allegations to make against anybody, and the judge as you've heard has roundly rejected those allegations."
White said he held "no animosity at all" to anyone involved but refused to comment on whether the charges should've been laid in the first place.
Sullivan will be sentenced on December 12. White and McLeod shook his hand as they were free to leave the dock. Sullivan refused to comment as he left court, flanked by his legal team and family. His lawyer, Pip Hall QC said they would not be making any statements.
McLeod's wife Sarah was delighted with today's outcome."We can now get on with our lives," she said outside.
Justice Heath said that as the global financial crisis began to bite, SCF reacted in a "knee-jerk fashion" rather than through a coherent fashion.
The firm showed a "less than orthodox approach" to debt impairment, the judge said.
But its governance structure proved "inadequate" to cope with the growth, Justice Heath said.
South Canterbury Finance accused Edward Sullivan (centre) was found guilty on five of nine charges this morning at the High Court at Timaru. Photo / Martin Hunter
Hubbard regarded related party lending as a safe option as he "had more control over it".
"It was common practice ... to acquire loans that were not performing before balance date then sell them back. As a result, the true state of the accounts was not properly reported back to investors," Justice Heath said during his summary.
Because of the company's participation in the Crown retail deposit guarantee scheme, 35,000 investors were bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of $1.6 billion - of which $800 million was recovered.
The trial in the High Court at Timaru, which concluded on August 18, spanned 61 days of evidence over five months.
All three accused denied charges that included theft by a person in a special relationship, false statements by promoter, obtaining by deception and false accounting.
Long-time SCF chairman, Timaru financier Allan Hubbard, died after a September 2011 car crash, aged 83 -- just months after the SFO laid 50 fraud charges against him.
The Crown alleged Hubbard "had little interest" in meeting accounting or legal requirements, and that McLeod, Sullivan and White "did not just turn a blind eye" but took affirmative actions that breached the controls on the company.
The court has adjourned while they organise a sentencing date for Sullivan.