Developer guilty after nearly decade-long SFO investigation

A guilty plea by property developer Ralph Vuletic ends a nine and a half year investigation which was drawn out by unspecified "investigative challenges", the Serious Fraud Office says.

SFO general manager Nick Paterson says the investigation of Vuletic (31) was the longest open investigation the SFO had on its books. 

Vuletic pleaded guilty at the Auckland High Court today to fraud following an "elaborate scheme" in 2003 to help his co-accused, Marcus Friedlander, avoid bankruptcy.

Vuletic and Friedlander, 58, faced 25 charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice, using a document for the purpose of obtaining pecuniary advantage, and uttering a forged document.

Friedlander pleaded guilty in August.

Mr Paterson would not give details of the investigation, but says it was prolonged by "investigative and prosecutorial challenges".

"There have been some issues, in and out of court, through the entire length of this investigation. It has just taken a long time. 

"It has been our longest open case and we are pleased it is now closed." 

According to the SFO, the fraud happened in 2003, when Friedlander had a failed property development and insurance brokering business.

He was in debt to the tune of more than $10 million and was facing potential bankruptcy.

Vuletic, a budding property developer whose family owned land in Auckland, helped Friedlander devise a scheme to avoid his bankruptcy.

The plan was for Friedlander to propose to his creditors that he would pay them an amount of cents for each dollar he owed them.

If this was accepted by 50% of creditors by value, he would avoid bankruptcy.

To support this, the pair created a fake paper trail of a backdated sale and purchase agreement for an Albany property, which was owned by Vuletic.

They also made a series of fake correspondence resulting in Friedlander signing an acknowledgment of debt.

This enabled them to create a false debt and increase the percentage support for Friedlander's proposal to his creditors.

This was ultimately unsuccessful, and Friedlander was adjudicated bankrupt in 2003.

Acting SFO chief executive Simon McArley says this "marks the end of a nine and a half year investigation and prosecution for the SFO, and demonstrated the office's determination and perseverance in cases with strong public interest".

Friedlander will be sentenced on December 10 and Vuletic on November 29. 

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