A young entrepreneur behind a business selling submarines has been charged over an attempted $22 million insurance scam.
Corey DJ Hinds is a director of a firm claiming to have developed underwater submersibles in New Zealand touted as the "marine equivalent of the space programme".
The laptop-controlled submersibles can apparently operate for 300 days at a depth of 1000 metres and the Hinds Systems Ltd website claimed the technology was wanted by the United States military and oil industries.
However, two of the unmanned underwater vehicles were reported stolen from the business's industrial headquarters in Counties Manukau in May with each insured for $11 million.
The police investigation found the missing submersibles on a rural property in Coromandel a month later - but detectives instead charged Hinds with an attempted insurance fraud.
The 24-year-old was arrested at the Auckland International Airport on Tuesday night after flying from Australia to be interviewed by insurance firm IAG.
Hinds appeared in the Manukau District Court yesterday and did not enter a plea to the charge of attempting to cause a loss of $22 million by deception, which has a maximum sentence of three and a half years.
He was forced to surrender his passport but was released on bail before his next court appearance.
Inquiries by the Herald discovered that Hinds Systems were in talks with a leading public relations agency to promote the submersibles in the media, including the possibility of exploring the sunken MV Rena off the shore of Mt Maunganui.
The discussions quickly ended and the firm assisted the police with the inquiry.
But promotional material on the Hinds System website claimed the United States Navy is interested in the technology, described as the "marine equivalent of the space programme".
"The navy wants these unmanned, unarmed vessels to shadow enemy submarines and chase them out of strategic waters. They are seeking to operate them in the open ocean and in coastal waters and harbours on missions lasting more than seventy days to gather intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information," the website says.
"The navy will deploy these submersibles for months and track underwater threats for thousands of miles without human contact. It keeps their troops out of harm's way and also minimises risks to the marine ecosystem by limiting the use of sonar."
The underwater submersibles are an "incredible feat of machinery" with a carbon fibre body which can operate in the ocean "for up to 300 days, down to 1000 metres, while it scans and photographs its environment".