Indian-origin men in New Zealand found guilty of fraud

Wellington, June 13 (IANS) Two Indian-origin men have been found guilty of defrauding a former city council in New Zealand of nearly NZ$850,000 (US$676,855).

The Auckland District Council Thursday found Hemant Kumar Maharaj and Suresh Din guilty of defrauding the former North Shore City Council to the tune of NZ$849,000 through their corrupt scheme, according to a statement issued by the Serious Frauds Office (SFO).

The two were found guilty of four joint counts of using a document with intent to defraud and seven counts of dishonestly using a document, over a period of approximately 10 years, using their roles as employer and contractor.

The SFO had laid the charges against Maharaj and Din in September 2010.

Simon McArley, acting chief of SFO, said that while New Zealand’s public sector has a clean record in terms of corruption, still vigilance and robust internal processes are needed to maintain that reputation.

“Addressing abuse of public funds by corrupt public employees is one of SFO’s highest priorities,” he said in a statement.

“The impact of the schemes can best be addressed by the earliest possible intervention. It may take courage but we strongly encourage people to bring matters to our attention as soon as they suspect unethical practices.”

When Maharaj was working for the North Shore City Council in 1999, he and Din formed an agreement to invoice the council for road and berm maintenance work.

Though the work mentioned was never completed, the pair used 151 invoices in their scheme, with Din submitting the invoices under the name of S Din Family Trust and Maharaj then signing off the work as being completed and forwarding the invoice for payment.

North Shore City, a former territorial authority in the Auckland region of this south Pacific island nation, was governed by the North Shore City Council from 1989 to 2010.

In November 2010, the city was merged with the rest of the Auckland region.

The North Shore City Council was then abolished and the place came under the purview of the Auckland City Council.

According to the SFO statement, Maharaj has also been found guilty of two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice in relation to the alteration and provision of a diary and the creation of a receipt book.

Din has been found guilty of one count of using a document with intent to defraud and six counts of dishonestly using a document in relation to the use of income tax returns that claimed expenditure he had not incurred, it added.

The two are set to be sentenced July 25.

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