By ANNE GIBSON

Property funder Strategic Finance has loaned $151 million to kick off some of the largest developments in the real estate sector in the past three years and has secured a special arrangement with the BNZ for capital.

The company's real estate banking work has also returned former Equiticorp Australia managing director Brian Fitzgerald to the financial world.

Fitzgerald, who lives in Wellington, was a key witness in two trials in the early 1990s involving corporate fraudster Allan Hawkins, former head of Equiticorp and frontman in its $2 billion collapse in January 1989. Fitzgerald gave details of various illegal deals in the heady 1980s and of the "H-Fee" transaction.

He gave evidence in the High Court at Auckland in the 1992 Equiticorp fraud trial and appeared again in 1994 in the Supreme Court in Melbourne giving evidence about phoney foreign exchange deals involving Hawkins.

In return for testifying against Hawkins and others, Fitzgerald was granted immunity and turned witness for the prosecution.

The Australian trial centred on former Elders IXL chief John Elliot and the A$66 million H-Fee he paid to Hawkins as a reward for services relating to the BHP/Bell Resources takeover bid.

Hawkins, jailed for six years on fraud and conspiracy charges involving $520 million, was released in July 1995.

Fitzgerald is now a director of Strategic, which has close funding arrangements with the BNZ.

Its investment statement for a redeemable preference share offer of June 14 said: "Following the establishment of Strategic Finance the directors entered into a joint funding arrangement with the BNZ through the establishment of a separate special purpose vehicle known as Strategic Mortgages".

The statement did not mention Fitzgerald's days at Equiticorp, merely that he had returned to New Zealand after working in the banking business in Sydney.

Other Strategic directors are David Wolfenden of Auckland, Paul Bublitz of Wellington, Graham Jackson of Auckland, Marc Lindale of Auckland (formerly with Strategic associate Salisbury Group) and Denis Thom of Wellington (also an Urbis Properties director).

Strategic chief executive officer Jock Hobbs, a former All Blacks captain, is also a director.

He said Strategic had total assets of $187 million. It specialised in lending on property development deals and generated $5.3 million net profit from $115 million assets to the end of last June, he said.

Strategic's latest call to the public is its redeemable preference share issue, in which it seeks $5 million, with the right to go to $10 million. It will pay 11 per cent annually for four years or 10 per cent annually for three years.

Hobbs said the money would be used to "further strengthen the capital base" of the business.

The offer opened in June, raised $4 million in the first few weeks, has raised $5 million and closes next month.

Hobbs took issue with statements from the Building Subcontractors Federation and its chief Peter Degerholm last month over a letter Degerholm wrote to the Securities Commission complaining about the share deal. Degerholm said deals such as Strategic's threatened people's confidence in the construction and property business.

But Hobbs said he had supplied information to the commission, which had told him it was taking no action.

Hobbs could not supply the correspondence between himself and a solicitor for the commission because it was "a private matter between Strategic and the commission".

Strategic Finance is owned by Strategic Investment Group.