Corrupt Auckland Transport execs jailed for five years

Fraud involved more than $1 million.

An Auckland Council manager and a private contractor have each been sentenced to at least five years in prison after being found guilty of corruption, bribery and fraud and convicted.

It is New Zealand's largest ever bribery case.

Murray Noone, a former senior manager at Auckland Transport and Rodney District Council, was sentenced to five years' imprisonment by Justice Sally Fitzgerald in the High Court at Auckland this morning.

Stephen Borlase, a former director of engineering company Projenz, was sentenced to five years, six months.

The sentencing follows Justice Fitzgerald’s ruling in December that the two were found guilty of Crimes Act fraud charges involving more than $1 million.

The offending took place between 2005 and 2013 at Rodney District Council and Auckland Transport. It was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, which brought the charges.

While in senior management roles at Rodney District Council and Auckland Transport, Noone received undisclosed payments and gratuities from Borlase who was the director of Projenz, a supplier to Auckland Transport and Rodney District Council. The gratuities often came in the form of travel, accommodation and entertainment.

Borlase faced eight charges and Noone faced six charges. Both had pleaded not guilty. Borlase was found not guilty of four Crimes Act charges of dishonestly taking or using a document.

Justice Fitzgerald said today that significant media attention and public suspicion had negatively affected the image of local government.

She added that this country’s reputation had been affected too because it is a place “where public corruption is virtually non-existent.”

Worker morale at Auckland Transport had been affected, the judge said, such as employees saying they were embarrassed to say they worked for the institutions and were “tarred with the same brush.”

The Crown’s lawyer, Brian Dickey, said the offending of the two men “sits at the top of the range” and emphasised the extensive period and amounts involved in the corruption.

Mr Dickey said Borlase and Noone’s offending has had a significant impact on the trust of public institutions and a number of people at a lower level have been implicated, who are “effectively collateral damage.”

Representing Borlase, lawyer Ron Mansfield said Projenz had received little gain from the two men’s actions.

He said the only gain achieved was “the maintenance of a relationship.”

Projenz won contracts because of hard work, Mr Mansfield said, and “there can be no doubt that Borlase was highly professional as far as delivery of work.”

Noone’s lawyer, Simon Lance said his client didn’t try to influence board decisions for contract work.

He added there was evidence that otherwise Noone did his job well.

The defence lawyers said they endorsed a penalty of three to four years' imprisonment while the Crown argued for the maximum penalty of seven.

Another Auckland Transport manager, Barrie Kenneth James George, pleaded guilty in August for his part in the matter and was convicted. George received a sentence of 10 months on home detention.

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