A respected South Auckland JP accused of being part of an elaborate international investment scam has been charged with 10 counts of money laundering in alleged offending involving nearly $1.8 million and 10 separate victims.
Detective Senior Sergeant Ryan Bunting, of Waitematā CIB, told the Herald the man was arrested on Tuesday after police executed a search warrant at his South Auckland home.
“Police making enquiries at the address located and seized a number of documents and computer equipment believed to be linked to the alleged offending.
“As a result of these enquiries, a 72-year-old male was arrested at the address and charged.”
The JP can currently be searched on the ‘Find a JP’ website and as a warranted justice official can legally certify anti-money laundering documents for finance companies.
He was charged with 10 counts of money laundering, which allegedly involves $1.775m and 10 separate victims.
The man, who is also a director and shareholder of multiple companies, is due to appear in Manukau District Court this week.
If convicted he could face up to seven years in prison.
Bunting said the Waitematā Financial Crime Unit had “zeroed in” on a million dollar fake investment scam that was duping New Zealanders out of their life savings.
Police had engaged with international law enforcement agencies as part of the complex investigation and would continue to do so as enquiries progressed.
The investigation remained ongoing and police were not ruling out further charges.
“Unfortunately, there are a number of esurient people both here in New Zealand and abroad who seek to cause harm to vulnerable members of our community by scamming them out of their earnings,” Bunting said.
“If you believe you are or have been the victim of fraud, contact Police at 105.police.govt.nz, or call Police on 105 and report the matter.”
Auckland victim who lost $100k thought he was investing in government-backed bonds
The Herald earlier reported that the JP was allegedly linked to an offshore investment scam in which victims thought they were investing in government-backed bonds through international finance giant BNP Paribas.
An Auckland businessman who lost $100,000 through the scam last year alerted authorities in July after realising he’d been fleeced.
He hired private investigator Nick Mayer who allegedly tracked his money to the JP’s now frozen BNZ account. Mayer then drove to the man’s house to confront him.
Mayer handed a dossier of evidence to police about the JP’s alleged involvement. But earlier this month, officers were yet to interview the suspect nearly six months after being alerted to the alleged fraud.
The victim told the Herald he feared the JP was acting as a “mule” for offshore organised crime syndicates.
“I have lost my life savings.
“I’m pleased with what the police have done. It’s taken time but it’s good to see [the JP] arrested.”
A screenshot of the victim's initial $50,000 online money transfer, referencing "BNP Paribas" as the payee.
The victim claims he was tricked into sending two $50,000 online payments to the scammers via his ASB account in June, writing “BNP Paribas” in the payee field.
The FMA had warned of the scam last year and BNP Paribas issued its own warning a week before the transfers.
The victim believed ASB should have been on notice and claimed it was negligent in failing to pick up on the payee reference to a known investment scam.
However, ASB says payee name fields are only for customers’ reference and “not used by our system when processing transactions”.
The Australian-owned bank has denied liability for the victim’s loss.
It instead offered him a “goodwill” payment of $2000 as full and final settlement but warned he won’t be able to pursue a Banking Ombudsman complaint against the company if he accepted the money.
The victim labelled the offer “a joke” and refused to accept the payment. The Banking Ombudsman is now investigating the case.
In a final response letter last month, ASB told the victim it was sorry for his loss but wasn’t liable “because you authorised the transactions”.
Though ASB had systems that monitored for suspicious activity, “the transfers you made did not alert the bank’s fraud detection system”.
Although ASB wasn’t liable, “we would genuinely like to reach a fair and reasonable resolution to your complaint”.
Acceptance of ASB’s $2000 offer would be a “full and final settlement”.
“You would not be able to pursue your complaint with the Banking Ombudsman Scheme.”
A fake online "client portal" purportedly showing the victim's $100,000 bond investment earning interest. It was all a fraud.
An ASB spokeswoman told the Herald: “It’s important to note this offer was not made on the basis that the customer withdraw his complaint to the Banking Ombudsman.”
Banking Ombudsman Scheme rules stipulated that complaints could not be considered if they were already resolved with the customer’s bank.
“We believe it is important to point out to a customer their acceptance of any offer made means the complaint could not be pursued through the Banking Ombudsman Scheme dispute process.”
If the customer preferred to pursue a complaint, ASB worked with the Banking Ombudsman to provide all relevant information.
Lane Nichols is a senior journalist and deputy head of news based in Auckland. Before joining the Herald in 2012, he spent a decade at Wellington’s Dominion Post and Nelson Mail.
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