21 Jun 2011

SFO stands by decision to charge Hubbard

2:15 pm on 21 June 2011

The head of the Serious Fraud Office says investigators looked at all the directors of Aorangi Securities, but decided there was only one person whom charges could be laid against - and that was Allan Hubbard.

The 82-year-old is facing 50 charges of fraud. The SFO alleging the theft of millions of dollars following a year-long investigation into Aorangi Securities and Hubbard Management Funds.

The charges were laid in Timaru District Court on Monday and allege theft by a person in a special relationship, false accounting and false statements. Some counts carry a maximum prison term of 10 years.

Mr Hubbard's lawyer Mike Heron says he will file an application to stop the prosecution and that his client strenuously denies the charges. A trial date has yet to be set.

SFO chief executive Adam Feeley told Morning Report on Tuesday he is aware of the popularity of Mr Hubbard in South Canterbury, but it would have been irresponsible not to have laid charges after the evidence was gathered.

"We don't take that decision lightly - it's not a decision that's been rushed. And so while we can understand the reaction, it doesn't change the fact that we saw evidence in front of us which effectively demanded these charges be laid.

"The evidence was quite clear - and we took the decision we did accordingly."

A separate investigation into South Canterbury Finance, which had to be bailed out by the Government, is well advanced, Mr Feeley says.

The South-Island based lender was placed in receivership in August, last year costing taxpayers nearly $1.8 billion in payouts under the Government's retail deposit guarantee scheme.

Prime Minister John Key says it is up to the courts to decide Allan Hubbard's guilt or innocence.

Victoria University's Emeritus Professor of Accounting, Don Trow told Morning Report there has been an impressive weight of authority behind the charges against Mr Hubbard.

He says statutory managers, the SFO, the Solictor-General, the Companies Office and the Financial Markets Authority have been involved in deciding what action to take.

The Financial Markets Authority has closed its investigation into Mr Hubbard's investment concerns, saying the SFO's charges are enough.

Support strong in Timaru

Support is still strong for Allan Hubbard in Timaru. Locals spoken to by Radio New Zealand say the businessman has done nothing wrong and should be left alone.

They say Mr Hubbard has done a lot for the community over the several decades and continues to be well-respected.

Long time supporter Paul Carruthers believes the charges are rubbish and Mr Hubbard wants the chance to clear his hame.

Mr Carruthers told Morning Report he is thrilled the SFO has had the courage to stop intimidating and blackmailing Mr Hubbard and put the charges before a court.