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Dominion's Bettle, Arkinstall and Forsyth guilty and convicted ahead of trial

Dominion Finance chairman Richard (Rick) Bettle and directors Vance Arkinstall and Paul Forsyth have pleaded guilty, and been convicted, on criminal charges they were due to defend next week.

The trio appeared before Justice Sarah Katz in Auckland High Court today, where they pleaded guilty to Securities Act charges of signing off misleading offer documents to investors in the failed finance companies Dominion Finance and subsidiary North South Finance.

The men were remanded at large to be sentenced on August 16, when home detention is a likely penalty.

The criminal charges brought by the FInancial Markets Authority carry a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment or fines of up to $300,000.

Just two weeks ago, Bettle and Arkinstall  appeared before the same judge, desperately applying for discharge without conviction. Most of that hearing was in chambers and not able to be reported.

Their application was declined last week. 

Today they pleaded guilty to five Securities Act charges after the Crown agreed to drop two more, accepting they had an arguable defence.

Forsyth pleaded guilty to all seven Securities Act charges this morning – the same charges on which fellow directors Ann Butler and Robert Whale earlier pleaded guilty to and are now serving home detention sentences of nine months and 12 months, respectively.

Financial Markets Authority acting manager litigation Rachael Manttan says Arkinstall, Bettle and Forsyth failed to perform their roles as directors.

“They did not disclose material information and this left investors in the dark as to the true position of the companies.”

Civil proceedings, also brought by the FMA, have been stayed pending resolution of the criminal trial.

Died in March

Butler's husband Terry Butler avoided the trial because he had cancer. He died on March 28.

Just yesterday, Bettle stepped down as chairman and director of lines company Powerco, his second exit in as many weeks, ahead of his July trial relating to failed lender Dominion Finance
 
Last week Bettle resigned from the board of NZX-listed Diligent Board Member Services.
 
Separately, Business Mentors New Zealand Trust said it accepted Bettle's resignation as chairman of Business in The Community Ltd. He is a former chairman of law firm Kensington Swan and past chairman of the Racing Industry Board and the TAB.
 
Arkinstall stepped down from his role as frontman for the Investment Savings and Insurance Association in 2010 as he prepared to fight the criminal charges.
 
Dominion Finance Group, which offered property and commercial loans, was placed in receivership in 2008, owing almost 6000 debenture holders $176.9 million. North South Finance was placed in receivership soon after, owing 3900 debenture holders $31 million.
 
Both companies were subsidiaries of NZX-listed Dominion Finance Holdings, which was placed in liquidation in 2009.
 
Dominion Finance boss Paul Cropp was not charged by the FMA. However he is serving a two-year, seven-month prison sentence after being found guilty of theft after a trial brought by the Serious Fraud Office earlier this year.
 

More by Georgina Bond

Comments and questions
1

What a disappointment for his peers at Powerco and Diligent (now there's a Tui ad in there somewhere...) that Bettle so clearly knew he was guilty and was simply trying to get away with a discharge while maintaining the pretence of being innocent.
How cavalier that he should retain his position knowing what he did, or maybe he was just happy to have those companies continue to pay his director fees.