Whether driving his Lamborghini, cruising on his luxury boat in Fiji, or relaxing in his antique-furnished historic homestead, Michael Swann made no secret of his high-flying lifestyle.
In fact, those flashy status symbols were just the tip of the iceberg.
Over six years, Swann poured almost $11.6 million into top-end cars, boats and properties - some said to have been bought with suitcases of cash - earning him the nickname "money bags".
Inevitably people began to wonder how this IT specialist who looked after computer systems for the Otago District Health Board could afford such extravagant tastes.
In Dunedin's small business community some even voiced their concerns on where the money was coming from.
Swann claimed he had hit the jackpot with a software programme bought up by computing giant Microsoft.
It would be several years before it was revealed he had been living it up with millions of dollars that should have been spent on desperately needed operations and medical care for the people of Otago.
And Otago's Dunedin Hospital was $40 million in the red when Swann was stealing from the health board.
What emerged in the High Court this month was possibly the largest fraud perpetrated by a state employee against a Government institution in New Zealand.
Swann 47, the board's former chief information officer, and Kerry Harford, 48, a Queenstown surveyor, were last week found guilty of defrauding the board of almost $17 million.
Both had denied acting dishonestly or fraudulently.
The Crown said they had used 198 invoices from Sonnford Solutions, a company formed by Harford, to charge the board $16.9 million for IT-related services that were never provided.
Swann and Harford face jail when they are due to be sentenced in February, and civil action may continue to get some of the money back.
While Swann gave his legitimate $145,000 salary to his then wife Anna Devereux, he was receiving on average $43,000 a week from his fraudulent Otago District Health Board "contracts".
Ms Devereux, who went to Australia with the Swann children but is now back in Dunedin, said in written evidence she never asked where the money came from.
Swann drove his Lamborghini to work at the health board each day, prompting Health Minister Tony Ryall to question this week how he could "park it next to the district health board Corollas" and nobody ask any questions.
Aside from owning Central Otago properties, Swann and Ms Devereux lived in the large 159-year-old Ferntree Lodge, furnished with antiques bought at auction, and also purchased the neighbouring property because it overlooked the lodge.
According to Ms Devereux's evidence, they also owned a "rumpy old crib" at Waynestown in rural Otago.
Among the six sea vessels controlled by Swann was the 50m Townsend Cromwell, with 21 flat-screen TVs and 17 cabins able to sleep up to 31 people.
Swann said he bought the boat for $800,000 and refurbished it for what "could be more than $1 million".
He would often go through a local dealer in buying and selling numerous classic, exotic and vintage Porsches, Mercedes Benz and Rolls-Royces.
The Serious Fraud Office said that in late 2005, for instance, Swann paid $262,000 for a Porsche, later traded it for a Mercedes Benz, then paid $250,000 for the same Porsche, later registered in Ms Devereux's name.
During the High Court trial, Swann was at ease in reeling off the tonnage and overall length of his six vessels, and then systematically described the individual models of each of 19 cars, encompassing a Lamborghini, Rolls-Royces, Porches, Mercedes Benz and a lone Bentley, plus more than 20 Land Rovers, Landcruisers, Buick, Cadillac and American Jeeps.
He accepted $7.8 million was "close" to what he had spent on "exotic, classic and vintage" cars and boats.
Warnings did come about Swann in the years before he was found out in 2006, but claims could not be substantiated.
A letter was sent by two prominent Dunedin businessmen in 1998 warning the board about employing him.
Another businessman, Sir Clifford Skeggs, said he spoke to health board members "casually" about Swann in about 2005-06 after becoming aware of him when they were both having work done on their respective boats.
"I thought, 'Where's this guy getting his funds from?' I did say to people in the hospital board arena that I couldn't comprehend how a man could spend so much money," Sir Clifford said.
In 2003 the then Southland District Health Board chief financial officer, Robert Mackway-Jones, began working with the Otago board to try to set up some shared financial systems.
When formally seconded to the Otago board in 2006 as part of his job, Mr Mackway-Jones found "apparent irregularities" with Sonnford Solutions invoices, later telling the court they did not make "a great deal of sense".
In early October 2006, Swann was named as the suspended Otago board employee and eight days later was sacked for "gross mismanagement", prompting a flurry of activity as his widely dispersed assets around Otago were seized under court orders.
Once the board's main investigation was under way and a civil case filed in the High Court at Dunedin on October 27, the board asked the SFO to run a separate but parallel investigation. Seven months later, in June last year, the SFO filed criminal fraud charges against Swann and Harford, essentially overtaking the Otago health board's civil case. -
- OTAGO DAILY TIMES, staff reporter