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SFO targets fraud risk as Christchurch rebuild billions approach

Wednesday 20th June 2012

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The Serious Fraud Office is putting more resources into preparing Christchurch for the risk of fraud as it shifts its focus from the failed finance companies, where its mammoth Hanover Finance case is one of the last still on its books.

Police Minister Anne Tolley told Parliament's law and order committee the SFO is looking beyond its heavy caseload involving failed lenders and towards the threat of fraud when billions of dollars is poured into Christchurch to rebuild the country's second-biggest city.

"They have been down there doing some education, working with some of the groups down there, talking about the risks, making sure there's good processes in place," Tolley said. "There's a lot of money that's going to be spent there over the next few years."

The white-collar crime investigator has been rebuilding its staff, developed closer ties with other regulatory bodies, and improved its relationships with private sector partners, Tolley said.

Chief executive Adam Feeley told the committee has cleared almost all of the "30-odd" finance company investigations it has been focusing on in recent years, with Hanover and NZF the last two.

"Hanover Finance has been well-known to people, and it continues. It's large and will take some time still yet to complete," Feeley said.

The SFO launched its investigation into Hanover at the end of 2010 after finding reasonable grounds to "believe that fraud had been committed."

The probe was triggered after a report by the now defunct-Securities Commission and complaints from several parties, including Allied Farmers, which bought the Hanover loan books in a debt-for-equity swap.

The Financial Markets Authority has a separate civil proceeding against Hanover relating to the lender's advertising and disclosure during a period where some $35 million of investor funds was deposited with the lender.

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