Crown reopens West Coast fraud investigation

February 3, 2016 | By More

Court House-general1“The whole thing is fishy,” said Crown prosecutor Karyn South as she announced new inquiries into the dealings of a West Coast accountant now in custody for fraud and forgery.

She also told the Christchurch District Court that the Crown has filed papers to apply for forfeiture of accountant Lindsay Beckett Smith’s family home to try to get some money for his victims.

That has delayed his sentencing which was scheduled to take place in Christchurch this week, but the victims – at present more than $1million out of pocket – have accepted that the delay is in their interest.

“It gives us a little hope,” said Michael Ross, who had attended the hearing with his wife Lilian. “We never expected to get anything back but we just wanted to get justice done. It would be nice to get some money.”

About $800,000 the Blenheim couple put up – their life’s savings – was lost in their dealings with Smith over a planned subdivision in Hokitika. Smith was an old friend. The couple has paid another $200,000 in lawyers’ fees since the offending was discovered.

Smith, 59, has pleaded guilty in the Greymouth District Court last year to seven charges of using a document to gain a pecuniary advantage, two of causing loss by deception, and one representative charge of using forged lending documents.

He dismissed his West Coast-based lawyer, Marcuz Zintl, this week but Mr Zintl will remain on the case as an amicus curiae (a friend of the court).

Miss South told the court that the Crown wanted to make further inquiries into dealings between Smith and a lender. She said the lender was a victim of the forgery.

However, she said the lender refused to talk to the police even though they were the victim.

“There are alarm bells going on for the Crown there,” she said. “They have behaved in a way that was extraordinary for an alleged victim.”

She said that when difficulties arose, the lender decided not to realise the security in Smith’s family home, but went after the assets of the subdivision company, for which the Rosses had put up money at that stage. That was when the Rosses lost their investment.

Judge Raoul Neave said this meant that the lender had gone straight for the guarantors rather than the principal.

“The whole thing is fishy,” said Miss South.

The judge said that if the Crown’s suspicions turned out to be correct it would significantly affect Smith’s culpability.

Miss South replied: “Depending on the relationship between the lender and Mr Smith, arguably, yes.”

The judge told the Rosses that there was potential benefit for them in the sentencing being delayed for the Crown’s application for forfeiture.

“My concern is to do what I can to increase your position,” he said.

Smith in custody, for another call in Greymouth on March 4, so that a date can be set for the next step in the forfeiture process. The case has been remanded, with Smith in custody, for another call in Greymouth on March 4, so that a date can be set for the next step in the forfeiture process.

 

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