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Former SCF director Nattrass gives evidence

Former South Canterbury Finance director Stuart Nattrass was this morning grilled by Crown prosecutor Colin Carruthers QC as the first witness called in the fraud trial.

Former directors Bob White and Edward Sullivan and former chief executive Lachie McLeod are defending fraud charges in relation to the collapse of the finance company at the Timaru High Court.

The three men stand accused of 18 charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office for a variety of alleged offences, including theft by a person in a special relationship, false statements and false accounting.
Several of the charges involve correspondence with the Treasury upon SCF's application to join the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme and its extended version.

Mr Caruthers asked Mr Nattrass, who was a director of SCF from 2002 to 2009; about the general way that business was done around the board table at the company founded by the late Allan Hubbard.

Mr Nattrass said that proposals would be brought to the board.

He was aware, however, that discussions had often been going on in other forums, not at the board table, between other members of SCF’s leadership, including Mr White and Mr Sullivan and former chairman Mr Hubbard.

A number of issues were then raised by Mr Carruthers, including South Canterbury’s dealings involving Auckland’s Hyatt Regency Hotel and Peter Symes – Mr Sullivan’s brother-in-law.

He questioned Mr Nattrass for details about who was directly responsible for putting together prospectus material. Mr Nattrass replied that it was generally the chief executive, the chief financial officer and usually one or other of the directors.

Mr Carruthers then took him through several prospectuses from 2004 to 2009 and asked him to state for the court who were the signatories, which were in each case Mr Hubbard, Mr Sullivan, Mr White and Mr Nattrass.

There was also further discussion toward the end of the mid-day session about the deposit guarantee scheme and how signing up to the trust deed had affected the business.

Mr Nattrass said he had expected it had diminished the role of Mr Hubbard.

SCF collapsed in August 2010 triggering a $1.58 billion payout to investors under the scheme, which was put in place at the height of the global financial crisis to prevent a run on funds.

The trial before Justice Paul Heath is set down for four months.

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