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Third guilty plea entered in Motor Trade Finance fraud

Wednesday 29th February 2012

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A further guilty plea has been made by one of the defendants charged with defrauding Dunedin-based Motor Trade Finance following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

Karl Sean Toussaint pleaded guilty to five charges of obtaining funds by deception under the Crime Act, the SFO said in a statement. The charges carry a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

Last year, Clark Lewis and Stewart Travis Saunders pleaded guilty to charges of obtaining funds by deception for their roles in the scheme. The four other defendants will appear in the Auckland District Court in March on similar charges.

The SFO laid 110 charges against the group in August, claiming they had defrauded MTF of some $4.9 million by illegally obtaining loans and using those funds for personal gain.

Mark Whelan, the former Auckland-based retail dealer, faces 25 individual and 41 joint charges for spear-heading the scheme, while Richard Barnett, Jonathan Chiswell, Brett Donaldson and Steward Saunders also face charges for their respective roles.

The SFO claims between July 2005 and February 2009 Whelan wrote a number of loans in the names of family, friends and associates using fake assets as security. In early 2009 the loans went into default and MTF was unable to find the assets for repossession. The SFO opened its probe in September last year.

Dunedin-based MTF reported a profit of $5.7 million in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, up from $5.3 million a year earlier. Its loan book was worth $371.9 million as at Sept. 30, down from $418.7 million a year earlier.

The lender’s perpetual preference shares, which are listed on the NZX’s debt market, traded today at 49 cents in the dollar. The notes pay a coupon of 5.34 percent.

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