Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Picking up Mercury with Chopsticks

I was reminded last week of just how lax New Zealand's laws are on serious fraud and financial skulduggery.

The Serious Fraud Office charged Peter Marshall with 13 counts of false accounting and making false statements in 2005, after his company Access Brokerage collapsed in 2004 owing more than $3 million.

Through his lawyer Marshall's defence is that due to a stroke he has suffered "memory loss" and that crucial evidence is in his mind murky because of this and therefore has asked for an adjournment to his fraud trial.

Forgive me if I might sound a like a tough bastard but surely all the evidence needed is in written form and any charge prosecuted and then defence of such charges would be a simple procedure and could go ahead in the absence of Marshall's absent memory.

Time certainly isn't going to help his recollection of events become crystal clear enough for him to have any trial commence.

Justice certainly isn't going to be served as it has already been over 3 years since the collapse of his firm and further delay seems to me prolonging the inevitable.

I must say this isn't the first example of such a defence being used to delay a fraud trial and it comes on top of poor efforts by the SFO to seek justice on behalf of victims of financial fraudsters and stacked deck accounting practices and the likelihood of these sewer rats being caught and punished seems akin to trying to pick up mercury with chopsticks.

Marshall's prospective fraud trial is especially relevant considering the climate in the finance industry of late.

The recent finance industry collapses in New Zealand share a common thread.

There are many that called themselves "financial advisers" who advised kiwis, many of them elderly, to get into Bridgecorp, knowing it was about to collapse.

I know of one 75 year old who has probably lost NZ $25000.00 that was advised to "invest" in Bridgecorp not long before its fall from grace.

I call that fraud and that needs to be punished by a jail sentence. Sadly the odds are that isn't going to happen.

Trustees of several financial companies have also been culpable in my opinion. Accepting deposits from customers, while at the same time keeping the knowledge that the company is in trouble to themselves.

There is really no need for laws to be changed or the SFO amalgamated into some big new state apparatus . All that is needed is for existing fraud laws to be used, prosecuted and a big enough deterrent handed down.

Until there are deterrents for this kind of despicable behavior that can alter victims lives forever, sometimes with deadly consequence, then underhanded and fraudulent swine are simply going to continue with their criminal behavior.


C Share Investor 2007