Former Heart of the City CEO Alex Swney.

MIL OSI – Source: New Zealand Serious Fraud Office – Alex Swney receives jail sentence

 

Former Chief Executive of Heart of the City, Alex Gordon Swney (57) has appeared in the Auckland District Court today. Mr Swney has been sentenced to five years and seven months’ imprisonment for charges brought respectively by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Inland Revenue.

In April, the SFO charged Mr Swney with one representative Crimes Act charge of dishonestly using documents to obtain $2.5 million. He pleaded guilty at his first appearance on 21 April admitting that while at Heart of the City he created fictitious invoices which, when submitted, resulted in payments into accounts controlled by him. The Inland Revenue charges were in relation to unpaid tax of approximately $1.8 million plus penalties and interest.

SFO Director, Julie Read said, “We are pleased this matter could be dealt with promptly together with the Inland Revenue case. This prosecution demonstrates that this sort of dishonesty will not be tolerated nor will it go unnoticed. Business can only prosper in an environment of integrity which is why New Zealand’s reputation as a safe place to invest and do business is so important and valuable.”

 

Notes

Background to investigation

Heart of the City Incorporated, an entity funded by property owners and commercial tenants, was established by Mr Swney in 1995. Mr Swney held the position of Chief Executive Officer reporting to the Board until October 2014 when his contract was terminated.

Crimes Act offences

Section 228 Dishonestly taking or using document
Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration,-

(a) dishonestly and without claim of right, takes or obtains any document; or

(b) dishonestly and without claim of right, uses or attempts to use any document.

About the SFO

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act in response to the collapse of financial markets in New Zealand at that time.

The SFO’s role is the detection, investigation and prosecution of serious or complex financial crime. The SFO’s focus is on investigating and prosecuting criminal cases that will have a real effect on:
• business and investor confidence in our financial markets and economy
• public confidence in our justice system and public service
• New Zealand’s international business reputation.

The SFO operates three operational teams; the Evaluation and Intelligence team along with two investigative teams.

The SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.

Part 1 of the SFO Act provides that it may act where the Director “has reason to suspect that an investigation into the affairs of any person may disclose serious or complex fraud.”

Part 2 of the SFO Act provides the SFO with more extensive powers where: “…the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed…”

In considering whether a matter involves serious or complex fraud, the Director may, among other things, have regard to:
• the suspected nature and consequences of the fraud and/or;
• the suspected scale of the fraud and/or;
• the legal, factual and evidential complexity of the matter and/or;
• any relevant public interest considerations.

The SFO’s Annual Report 2014 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Statement of Intent 2014-2018 sets out the SFO’s strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at www.sfo.govt.nz

Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.