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Gavin Bennett jailed for 8 years over Datasouth fraud

Thursday 3rd May 2012

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Former Datasouth Group managing director Gavin Bennett was sentenced to eight years jail after pleading guilty to defrauding South Canterbury Finance of $65 million and falsifying his company’s finances by about $38 million to ensure the flow of funds.

Bennett was personally enriched by the schemes by about $7.8 million paid into his bank accounts and onto credit cards that funded “the rental of luxury apartments; payments to female escorts; and other lavish expenditure on restaurants, jewellery, and high-end fashion,” according to a statement from the Serious Fraud Office.

The SFO assessed the failed South Canterbury’s loss from the fraud of at least $23 million.

Judge Farish said at the sentencing in the Christchurch District Court that Bennett had embarked on an “unprecedented level of fraud” to support a “lavish and grandiose lifestyle.”

SFO Chief Executive, Adam Feeley called Bennett’s crimes “a cynical fraud to inflate one man's business ego and allow him to live a life of luxury while his staff struggled to keep the business afloat.”

The crimes “were uncovered soon after the Christchurch earthquake, resulted in 31 people losing their jobs at the worst possible time for the city,” Feeley said in the statement.

Bennett pleaded guilty in March to six charges under the Crimes Act representing 900 separate incidents of dishonestly using a document and two charges of false accounting.

Bennett started the business in the mid-1990s offering IT services including equipment leasing. Customers would enter a ‘Hire Agreement’ with Datasouth Finance for the equipment.

He falsified agreements between Datasouth Finance and its customers, and then presented these, as if genuine, to South Canterbury in order to secure funding, according to the SFO. He also submitted false financial statements to South Canterbury to retain the on-going finance facility.

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