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Rates round-up: March 26

Hobbs probe halted; "shadow" director's plea bid fails; finance company trial delayed

Monday, 26 March 2012

by Niko Kloeten

The Financial Markets Authority stopped its inquiry into the late Jock Hobbs' role into the collapse of Strategic Finance due to his illness.

Hobbs, a former director of Strategic died earlier this month after a six-year battle with leukaemia.

The regulator has issued a statement confirming that it had halted its investigation into the ex-All Black captain midway through last year.

"FMA decided in June 2011 to close its investigation into whether Mr Hobbs had committed a breach of the Securities Act on the basis of medical evidence then provided to it on behalf of Mr Hobbs.

"That decision was communicated by FMA to Mr Hobbs' solicitors on 14 June 2011. FMA's investigation into whether other parties have committed offences under the Securities Act is continuing and no decisions on possible charges have yet been made."

"Shadow" director fails to reverse plea

Alleged Five Star Finance "mastermind" Neill Williams could face jail time after his bid to overturn his guilty plea was rejected.

Described in court as a "shadow" director of the failed finance company, Williams pleaded guilty to Securities Act charges in late 2011.

However, he later applied to Auckland District Court to vacate that guilty plea, claiming he made it as a result of medical conditions that led to him having a confused state of mind.

Judge David Harvey had a different view, saying Williams changed his mind after he realised jail time was a very real possibility.

He rejected the application and remanded him on bail until a callover hearing in April.

Five Star directors Nicholas Kirk and Marcus Macdonald were sent to jail after pleading guilty to FMA charges in 2010, while a third director, Anthony Bowden, who also pleaded guilty, received home detention.

Williams and Bowden also face Serious Fraud Office charges, which will be heard in a trial due to take place later this year.

Capital + Merchant trial delayed a week

The trial of three former directors of Capital + Merchant Finance on Serious Fraud Office charges has been put back another week and will start on April 23.

The adjournment has been given to allow lawyers to sort out issues relating to the case, including disclosure the directors are trying to get from Capital + Merchant's former auditors BDO.

Owen Tallentire, Neal Nicholls, and Wayne Douglas have been charged under the Crimes Act in relation to $28m worth of loans advanced between 2004 and 2006.

The SFO alleges the loans breached the company's trust deed and resulted in $16 million of benefits for trusts controlled by the accused.

The three men, along with fellow directors Colin Ryan and Robert Sutherland, have also been charged by the Financial Markets Authority, which alleges the company made untrue statements in offer documents.

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