An international "man of mystery" is at the centre of criminal charges laid against a company director accused of creating fictitious characters to avoid a $100,000 debt.
Lynne Pryor has been charged with 22 counts of attempting to defraud creditors and the Companies Office, by using false documents to create a false director and liquidator.
An arrest warrant has been issued for another company director, Terry Hay, believed to be hiding in Hawaii.
Pryor appeared in the Auckland District Court last week to face charges including appointing a fictitious person as a new director; putting the company into liquidation by appointing a false liquidator, changing the company name to Salad Foods Ltd and continuing to trade.
A private investigator hired by creditors of Fresh Prepared discovered the alleged deception. The creditors of the fresh fruit business wanted to find Babubhai Patel of Patel and Patel, who was appointed the liquidator by a special meeting of shareholders in January last year, but the private investigator could find no trace of him.
Barrister Douglas Hickson filed civil action against Fresh Prepared in the High Court at Auckland in May last year, claiming the appointment of Patel was a sham. In his ruling, Associate Judge Jeremy Doogue said there was "a serious question as to whether or not Mr B Patel actually exists and whether the entity 'Patel and Patel' to which he belongs is a fictitious organisation".
The Herald on Sunday understands a complaint was then lodged with the Serious Fraud Office, which sent it to the Ministry of Economic Development's national enforcement unit. After a six-month inquiry ministry investigator Peter Day laid the 22 Companies Act and Crimes Act charges last week.
The first liquidator report from Patel in January last year said unsecured creditors were owed $105,000. As it was unlikely that assets would be distributed to creditors, he decided not to call a meeting of creditors.
Day visited the Pukekohe address listed for Babubhai Patel in May last year - but no one there had heard of him. He then checked Companies Office records, which showed Lynne Pryor had resigned as director in November 2006, replaced that same day by Sanjay Patel of Onehunga. No one at that address had heard of him.
Babubhai Patel filed a final liquidator report in November last year - purportedly from Shanghai, China - saying creditors would receive none of the $100,000 owed to them. The China address is listed on Google as a shopping mall and Patel and Patel is listed at an address in Mumbai, India.
The Ministry executed search warrants last December and seized hundreds of documents and several computer hard drives from Pryor, the former director and sole shareholder of Fresh Prepared. Charges were laid against Pryor last week, alleging she fabricated documents to create Sanjay Patel as a fake director and Babubhai Patel as the fake liquidator.
The Ministry also alleges that she continued to trade under the name Salad Foods. Attempts to contact Pryor were unsuccessful.