Former manager pleads guilty to accepting cash kickbacks

7:54 pm on 23 January 2018

A former assets manager for a publicly funded health provider and trustee of an iwi charitable trust has pleaded guilty to fraud in the Auckland High Court.

Exterior of the Auckland High Court

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Saul Roberts was the former assets manager for Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust and trustee and employee of Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority.

Mr Roberts faced five charges under section four of the Secret Commissions Act and today pleaded guilty to all charges.

In 2009 while acting as a trustee at Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority, Mr Roberts received a secret payment of $45,000 in return for withdrawing public submissions he had lodged on behalf of the tribal authority in opposition to a proposed change to a District Plan.

The company that made the payment was unaware Mr Roberts was acting without the knowledge and consent of his employer.

In 2012, while employed by Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust , Mr Roberts received secret commission payments in return for contracting work to certain suppliers to the trust, including businesses owned by his co-defendant, Atish Narayan.

Mr Roberts received a certain percentage of each invoice as a cash kickback.

Atish Narayan, a supplier of goods and services to Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust, pleaded guilty to two charges under section three of the Secret Commissions Act as well as one Crimes Act charge of 'obtaining by deception' in August 2017.

Mr Narayan owned two auto repair businesses, which provided services to the trust.

Mr Narayan made undisclosed payments to Mr Roberts, in return for Mr Roberts arranging for vehicles owned by Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust to be serviced or repaired at his businesses.

Serious Fraud Office durector Julie Read said deliberate acts of fraud against a publicly funded health care provider and a charitable trust were "completely unacceptable" and a matter of significant public concern.

Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust is a publicly funded health provider based in Otahuhu, South Auckland. It provides long-term residential health care for people with an intellectual disability who are unable to be supported in their home. It owns a number of properties around the country and funding is provided by the Ministry of Health.

Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority is a Charitable Trust established to benefit the people of west Auckland iwi Te Kawerau a Maki and settle that tribe's treaty claims.

Mr Narayan was sentenced to six months' home detention and ordered to pay $14,000 in reparation in October.

Mr Roberts will be sentenced on 27 February.