MediaWeb's Victor Clarke pleads guilty to $2.2 million fraud

In the Auckland District Court, Victor Clarke today pleaded guilty to two false accounting charges.

Victor Clarke, a former director of MediaWeb, one-time publisher of NZ Management magazine, has pleaded guilty to forgery and false accounting charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office, relating to loans of $2.2 million for the failed media company.

In the Auckland District Court, Clarke today pleaded guilty to two false accounting charges, one charge of using a forged document, and one charge of obtaining by deception brought against him by the white-collar crime investigator under the Crimes Act, the SFO said in a statement. The SFO said the 66-year-old falsified financial statements to present a positive picture of MediaWeb's financial position, created fictitious entries in the company's accounting system to obtain money from a lending institution, forged emails, and failed to disclose the true financial position of the company to obtain funding from a trust.

"Mr Clarke's plea at this early stage of the proceedings will be a relief to witnesses and victims who would have otherwise been subjected to considerable stress in the course of a trial," SFO director Julie Read said.

The business magazine publisher, started by Clarke and Toni Myers, produced a number of industry-related titles, including NZ Management Magazine. 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, posted to the Companies Office website last month, the receivers had realised $318,140 between March 5, 2014 and Sept. 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.

The latest liquidators' report in May 2015 from Blacklock Rose liquidator Garry Whimp said two secured creditors, understood at the time to be Heartland Bank and Trade Publications Ltd, were owed $1.449 million. The IRD put in a claim for $287,190, and the company owed wages and holiday pay of $18,125. Claims from a further 24 unsecured creditors totalling $625,631 were also received.

Clarke will appear for conviction and sentencing at the Auckland District Court on December 11.