MediaWeb director jailed for three years

Victor Clarke falsified financial statements to present a positive picture of MediaWeb's financial position.

Victor John Clarke, a former director of magazine publisher MediaWeb, has been sentenced in the Auckland District Court today to three years’ imprisonment.

Fraud charges were laid against Clarke by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in September this year.

He had faced two false accounting charges, one charge of using a forged document and one charge of obtaining by deception. He pleaded guilty to those charges in October and was convicted.

They related to Mr Clarke’s conduct as a director of MediaWeb where he was responsible for overseeing the accounting and financial aspects of the business.

Mr Clarke falsified financial statements to present a better picture of MediaWeb’s financial position, created fictitious entries in MediaWeb’s accounting system to obtain money from a lending institution, forged emails, and failed to disclose the true financial position of MediaWeb to obtain funding from a trust, the SFO says.

“Mr Clarke’s breaches of trust in relation to two separate entities enabled him to obtain funding and access to loan facilities of approximately $2.2 million,” SFO director Julie Read says.

“The use of such deception to support a business undermines confidence in the small business sector and generally only defers the failure of the business harming others in the process. Prosecutions such as this by the SFO serve to send a message that this type of conduct is not only detrimental to the perceptions of New Zealand business in general but also serious criminal conduct.”

MediaWeb, started by Clarke and Toni Myers, produced a number of industry-related titles, including AdMediaHospitalityNZ Management, OnFilmFMCGGrillCatering Plus and traveltrade. Its main revenue source was an annual event celebrating the country's top 200 businesses.

MediaWeb was placed into receivership on March 5, 2014, and then into liquidation on March 21, owing creditors more than $2 million. McDonald Vague was appointed receiver and is understood to have found several anomalies when analysing the financial records of the company. The case was then handed over to the Serious Fraud Office. Blacklock Rose was appointed liquidator.

In McDonald Vague's fourth receivers' report, the receivers had realised $318,140 between March 5, 2014 and September 4, 2015 and distributed $317,500 in fees and wages over the same period, including $39,233 in distributions to Heartland Bank. It held a balance of $640.

NBR first reported in September 2013 that MediaWeb was struggling to pay its staff.

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