Joint investigation results in charges for Strategic Planning Group

 

News release
5 September 2013

Following a joint investigation into the activities of Auckland based company Strategic Planning Group Limited (SPG), the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Financial Markets Authority (FMA) have laid charges against former financial adviser Andrew Hrothgar Robinson (40).

Mr Robinson was a director of Strategic Planning Group Limited (SPG) and is a current director of SPG Investment Company No.1 Limited (SPGI).

Mr Robinson appeared in the Auckland District Court today to face five charges laid by SFO under the Crimes Act of theft by person in a special relationship and one charge of dishonestly using a document.

It is alleged that Mr Robinson stole investor funds of approximately $3 million to repay the investments of other investors and to pay for some business and personal expenses between 2010 and 2012. It is further alleged Mr Robinson made false statements in various investment reports to hide the true picture from investors.

FMA has laid one charge against Mr Robinson under the Financial Service Providers Act for providing a broking service without being registered, and one charge of knowingly making a false statement in his application to become an Authorised Financial Adviser (AFA) under the Financial Advisers Act.

FMA has laid additional charges against Mr Robinson and a co-director of SPGI, Mark Andrew Turnock. They each face two charges under the Financial Reporting Act of making false statements in the SPGI financial documents. SFO has not laid charges against Mr Turnock.

The investigation into SPG and SPGI began in December 2012 when FMA received a complaint with allegations about Mr Robinson’s management of client funds through SPG. FMA took immediate action to preserve investors’ funds by requesting that the bank accounts of Mr Robinson and SPG be frozen. Mr Robinson’s status as an AFA was terminated in December 2012.

FMA subsequently referred certain aspects of their investigation to SFO.

“Public confidence in the financial adviser regime relies on advisers complying with their regulatory obligations and FMA will take appropriate action where it is alleged this is not occurring,” said FMA Head of Enforcement, Belinda Moffat.

“It is critical that members of the public have available to them accurate financial statements when making informed investment decisions. Directors have an obligation to ensure that financial statements are not false or misleading,” said Ms Moffat.

SFO Acting Director, Graham Gill added, “The joint efforts of SFO and FMA have progressed this investigation effectively and efficiently. This demonstrates our commitment to working together to deliver a coordinated response to financial crime in New Zealand’s investment markets.”

The defendants’ next appearance is scheduled for 26 September.

ENDS

Notes to editors


Background to investigation

Strategic Planning Group was incorporated on 13 December 2004 and for approximately eight years provided financial, accounting, mortgage broking and risk and insurance services to clients.

SFO charges

Crimes Act offences:

Section 220 Theft by person in special relationship
(1) This section applies to any person who has received or is in possession of, or has control over, any property on terms or in circumstances that the person knows require the person—

(a) to account to any other person for the property, or for any proceeds arising from the property; or

(b) to deal with the property, or any proceeds arising from the property, in accordance with the requirements of any other person.

(2) Every one to whom subsection (1) applies commits theft who intentionally fails to account to the other person as so required or intentionally deals with the property, or any proceeds of the property, otherwise than in accordance with those requirements.

(3) This section applies whether or not the person was required to deliver over the identical property received or in the person's possession or control.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (1), it is a question of law whether the circumstances required any person to account or to act in accordance with any requirements.

Section 228 Dishonestly taking or using document
Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, with intent to obtain any property, service, pecuniary advantage, or valuable consideration,—

(a) dishonestly and without claim of right, takes or obtains any document; or

(b) dishonestly and without claim of right, uses or attempts to use any document.

FMA charges

Financial Service Providers (Registration and Dispute Resolution) Act 2008 offences

Section 11 No being in business of providing financial service unless registered
(1) A person to whom this Act applies must not be in the business of providing a financial service unless that person is registered for that service under this Part.

(2) Every person who knowingly breaches subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction,—

(a) in the case of an individual, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding $100,000, or to both; or

(b) in the case of a person who is not an individual, to a fine not exceeding $300,000.

Financial Reporting Act 1993

Section 41 False statements
(1) Every person who, with respect to a document required by this Act,—

(a) makes, or authorises the making of, a statement in the document that is false or misleading in a material particular knowing the statement to be false or misleading; or

(b) omits, or authorises the omission, from the document of any matter knowing that the omission makes the document false or misleading in a material particular—

commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to a fine not exceeding $200,000.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person who voted in favour of the making of a statement at a meeting of directors or members or shareholders of an entity is deemed to have authorised the making of the statement.

Financial Advisers Act 2008

Section 136 Offence of false declaration, etc, in support of application for authorisation or grant of QFE status

(1) A person (A) commits an offence if A has, for the purpose of obtaining authorisation or the grant of QFE status, either for A or for any other person,—

(a) either orally or in writing, made any declaration or representation knowing it to be false or misleading in a material particular; or

(b) produced to the FMA or made use of any document knowing it to contain a declaration or representation referred to in paragraph (a); or

(c) produced to the FMA or made use of any document knowing that it was not genuine.

(2) A person who commits an offence under this section is liable on conviction to a fine,—

(a) in the case of an individual, not exceeding $100,000:

(b) in the case of an entity, not exceeding $300,000.

Role of SFO

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was established in 1990 under the Serious Fraud Office Act in response to the collapse of financial markets in New Zealand at that time.

SFO operates three investigative teams:

  • Evaluation & Intelligence;
  • Financial Markets & Corporate Fraud; and
  • Fraud & Corruption.

SFO operates under two sets of investigative powers.

Part I of the SFO Act provides that it may act where the Director “has reason to suspect that an investigation into the affairs of any person may disclose serious or complex fraud.”

Part II of the SFO Act provides SFO with more extensive powers where: “…the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence involving serious or complex fraud may have been committed…”

SFO’s Annual Report 2012 sets out its achievements for the past year, while the Statement of Intent 2012-2015 sets out the SFO’s three year strategic goals and performance standards. Both are available online at: www.sfo.govt.nz

Role of FMA

FMA was established on 1 May 2011 under the Financial Markets Authority Act 2011, in response to the need to address failures in the financial markets, made evident from the global financial crisis. The Government recognised that New Zealand required a single conduct regulator to proactively monitor and enforce securities legislation.

FMA is an independent Crown entity and has the following functions:

  • to monitor compliance with, investigate contraventions of, and enforce securities and investment law, financial reporting law, and companies law, in respect of financial markets participants;
  • to promote confident and informed participation in the financial markets;
  • to license and supervise particular financial markets participants, including financial advisers, trustees and statutory supervisors, auditors, and securities markets;
  • to monitor and conduct inquiries and investigations into financial markets and financial markets participants; and
  • to keep the law under review.