A fraudster and former fugitive has failed in a long-running legal fight against his removal from Australia to New Zealand where he was wanted on criminal charges.
Paul James Bennett, a 57-year-old with several aliases including Dennis Kite, David Kite, and James Lochead, was arrested as he sailed into Sydney Harbour after crossing the Tasman Sea from Northland on a crippled yacht in February 2015.
He was later removed from the country and sent back to New Zealand – where he is a citizen - and charged with dozens of charges alleging that he used documents dishonestly and without claim of right to obtains hundreds of thousands of dollars.
On the flight from Sydney to Christchurch, he was handcuffed and escorted by four Australian Border Force officers and then handed over to waiting Kiwi police officers.
Last July, Bennett was jailed for 38 months after pleading guilty to seven representative fraud and theft charges which involved four victims and amounted to $582,680.85, spanning 2003 to 2014.
However, allegations that he stole a luxury yacht – and that he sold fake Rolex watches on Trade Me, plus other allegations – were dropped by prosecutors.
Bennett still faces other charges and is awaiting trial, including allegations made by the Civil Aviation Authority that he flew a helicopter without a private pilot's licence or a current medical certificate.
He tried to get the CAA charges dropped, claiming that his removal to New Zealand was a "disguised extradition" – which was described as a "means by which states achieve jurisdiction over a person, without going through official extradition processes".
Bennett argued that the way in which his removal came about and how he was escorted from Sydney to Christchurch amounted to an abuse of process to such a degree that continuation of the proceedings would compromise the "moral integrity" of the criminal justice system.
But a District Court judge threw out his claims and he sought a judicial review in the High Court.
In a new judgement released today, Justice Cheryl Gwyn concluded that New Zealand authorities did not bring about the determination by the Australian authorities to remove Bennett from Australia.
The High Court judge was satisfied that his removal from Australia was mandatory because of his immigration status.
"It cannot be said that his deportation was due to any meddling by the New Zealand Police," she concluded.
"On the contrary, the clear evidence is that Mr Bennett had to be removed from Australia and that New Zealand was the natural destination, being his place of citizenship.
"The removal being lawful in terms of Australian law there was nothing unlawful in which New Zealand authorities could have colluded."