Wednesday 13th April 2011 1 Comment
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Former finance company owner Mark Hotchin says he was personally "misled" by a group of con-artists who ripped off nearly $15 million from over 100 victims.
From September 2000, Ponzi-style schemes run by Rotorua couple Bill Papple and Margarite Huia Papple, (known as Lee) and Dunedin woman Tina Marie West fleeced 120 investors of $14.6 million by offering returns as high as 10% a month.
Hotchin told NZPA today that he welcomed the lifting of the suppression orders at Rotorua District Court over the Serious Fraud Office's 2004 prosecution of the trio.
"In 2004 I was approached about an investment opportunity in a personal capacity," he said. "I was led to believe that our funds were going into an overseas investment vehicle, however I was clearly misled.
"The advice I received from a trusted acquaintance at the time subsequently proved to be flawed and unfortunately I was let down by the fraud perpetrated by the Papples and Ms West".
Hotchin said "my name was suppressed at the time because we wanted to protect Hanover and its investors because it was made in a personal capacity, not an investment made by Hanover".
But the editor of Rotorua's Daily Post newspaper at the time of the fraud case, Karyn Scherer - who unsuccessfully opposed Hotchin's bid for a suppression order - later said two businessmen were granted name suppression by Judge James Weir when they gave evidence about the case.
One of the men was alleged in court to have used his business to prove that he had $27 million to put into a "prime bank instrument" scheme in which investors ended up losing millions of dollars, Scherer reported.
The court heard that one of the executives ended up investing more than US$300,000 (NZ$382,500) in the scheme, despite being given "bugger all" information about it. The other invested US$250,000 (NZ$318,000).
Hotchin and another victim, then Hanover chief executive and director Kerry Finnigan, gave evidence at depositions and the trial in January 2005.
The men's lawyer, Bruce Stewart, QC, said his clients were worried about how public knowledge surrounding their involvement with "Looney Tune investments" would impact on their businesses. If business confidence in the men dropped, it could result in their businesses failing and staff members being made redundant.
An Auckland church leader who sought suppression was not represented by counsel and a Rotorua man filed an affidavit in support of his name remaining secret.
Hotchin said in a 2003 affidavit requesting name suppression that there would be concern over the investment strategies adopted within the Hanover organisation because of the loss of credibility and damage to his reputation.
Investors could well come to the conclusion that if one of the directors of Hanover was making inappropriate investment decisions personally then he could well be doing the same for the group.
After the men's names were suppressed, Hanover continued promoting the experience of its management, and prudent investment strategies, and was the nation's largest privately-owned finance company when it failed in 2008, freezing $554 million affecting 13,000 investors.
After leaving Hanover, Finnigan became chief executive of Strategic Finance, which collapsed in 2008 - owing $452 million to 13,000 investors - amid a rash of other finance company failures.
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